ABSTRACT: Recently, DoubleClick.com, one of the world’s premier Internet advertising firms was at the center of a Federal Trade Commission investigation on privacy. Consumer privacy advocates have charged the company with infringing on the privacy of websurfers because of the aggressive means it uses to gather data for profit. This paper discusses the legal and moral issues surrounding these tactics. Were the company’s aggressive tactics legally permissible? Were they ethical? Companies such as DoubleClick need to inform the websurfer that he/she is being monitored.
The world of the Internet uses advertising as its central driving force. Internet start-up companies have spent millions upon millions of dollars on advertising, making Internet advertising a very lucrative business. In fact, right now the advertising market is estimated to be worth about $6.6 billion and is expected to be worth $27 billion by 2004.1 One of the leaders in the business, DoubleClick.com, has a significant market share of the industry with over 1,500 client sites. The aggressive means by which DoubleClick operates has made it the advertiser of choice by many Internet companies.
The power of DoubleClick is in its usage of Internet "cookies" to gather information on web surfers. Every time you visit a website that is powered by DoubleClick, an Internet cookie is placed on to your web browser. The cookie helps DoubleClick track what your Internet habits are and which websites you visit most often. This information is then kept in a database that is later used by DoubleClick to target consumers with ads based on the information that it has on different user types. It is estim...
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1 Frook, John E. “Tactics vary in race for ad network dominance.” BtoB. October 23, 2000 Vol. 85: 1.
2 Magill, Ken. “DoubleClick: Profiling Not Dead,” iMarketing News Vol.2 No.9 (2000):1.
5 “What Goes Up…(The DoubleClick Story).” Privacy Times. February 3,2000 <http://www.privacytimes.com/NewWebstories/doubleclick_priv_2_23.htm>
6 “FTC Closes Investigation of DoubleClick’s Privacy Practices.” January 22, 2001 http://www.doubleclick.net:80/us/corporate/presskit/press-releases.asp?asp_object_1=& press%5Frelease%5Fid=2489
7 Anstead, Mark. “Internet:Taking a tough line on privacy- New legislation threatens internet data collection.” Marketing. April 13, 2000.
9 Hawkins, Dana; Mannix, Margaret. Personal Tech.” U.S. News & World Report. Vol. 129 No.13.
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