Attorney: Groups Won't Stop DoubleClick Settlement

An objection filed by privacy advocates won't have any bearing on a settlement hearing regarding privacy litigation against DoubleClick Inc., according to one marketing attorney.

Electronic Privacy Information Center and Junkbusters filed a formal objection to the proposed settlement of class-action privacy lawsuits against DoubleClick May 6. The settlement will be reviewed at a May 21 hearing in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.

“They probably have no standing whatsoever,” said Marc S. Roth, general counsel and vice president at Cross Media Marketing Corp., New York. “They're not a party to the action. They may be a stakeholder in the overall issue but they don't have any standing.”

DoubleClick agreed to implement a number of privacy provisions in exchange for the dismissal of lawsuits pending in New York, California and Texas.

It will revise its privacy policy to include easier-to-read explanations of its business and will merge personally identifiable information with click-stream data only if consumers opt in. The company also has agreed to routinely purge data collected online and to have its cookies expire within five years. In addition, it will pay $1.8 million in lawyers fees and allow an independent auditor to review its compliance twice a year.

DoubleClick also plans to serve 300 million banner ads that invite consumers to learn more about Internet privacy.

Though attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the suits against DoubleClick said they were pleased with the settlement proposal DoubleClick put forth in March, EPIC and Junkbusters don't think the proposal goes far enough.

The complaint filed with the court by EPIC and Junkbusters said in part, “By agreeing to the proposed settlement, DoubleClick has not made any significant change to its practices or its policies nor has it provided the type of meaningful privacy protection sought by consumer and privacy organizations.”

The litigation stems from DoubleClick's merger in November 1999 with Abacus Direct and its stated intention shortly thereafter to merge offline data with online data.

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