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The potential problems privacy issues pose for marketers and media companies became readily apparent last week to subscribers of Advertising Age's own Web site, (

To announce a new chat service for advertising professionals set up as a co-branded partnership between and, an industry provider of interactive chat services, 35,000 registered users of the search engine were sent an e-mail promoting the site and informing them their Ad Age Web user names and passwords could be used.

Instead of coming from, however, the e-mail came from, and included the current password of the recipient.

Nearly two dozen subscribers complained, worried that information they had furnished had been sold to others. (Not all visitors to the Ad Age site register; registration is mandatory only for visitors who want to use the search engine. All others can use the site without filling out any forms or needing a password.)

Both Advertising Age and last week said that no Web registration list information was sold. Instead, they said, the two companies were working together to avoid forcing subscribers to create a second password to go to the chat room.

Advertising Age VP-Publisher Ed Erhardt said's mistake was not sending the notice under its own name, which made many recipients of the e-mail wonder how another company had gotten hold of their passwords. He said also will disclose more prominently its privacy policies against selling information on its Web site.

Mr. Erhardt last week sent a notice to all subscribers apologizing.

"We are obviously very aware of privacy. The reason that we took such an aggressive action . . . and have publicly apologized in the press and on the site is we are very sensitive to this issue," he said.

"We do not sell passwords or names to others. We never have and we never will," he said, adding that the privacy policies of Advertising Age's parent, Crain Communications Inc., will be added to the Web site.

Esther Loewy,'s director of communications, said the New York-based company has sent similar messages when other marketers created their own chat rooms but welcoming messages from had arrived after e-mails from those marketers notifying their subscribers.

Ms. Loewy said the chat room is extremely targeted, with the room only accessible from the site, whereas most marketers have rooms accessible from site.

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