DoubleClick Inc.: Gathering Customer Intelligence
DoubleClick Inc., with global headquarters in New York City and over 30 offices around the world, was a leading provider of comprehensive Internet advertising solutions for marketers and Web publishers. It combined technology, media and data expertise to centralize planning, execution, control, tracking and reporting for online media companies. DoubleClick was able to track Internet-users' surfing habits (but not the surfers' identities) allowing it to personalize ads for specific market groups. When DoubleClick announced it was merging with Abacus Direct, a direct marketing company with a database of consumer names, addresses and retail purchasing habits of 90 per cent of American households, it raised many privacy-related questions and concerns. Several Internet privacy activists had filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission after being informed by media sources that DoubleClick had the ability to divulge a person's identity by merging the databases of the two companies and matching the information in cookies with a surfer's profile. The president of DoubleClick was confident that its internal practices were sound, but he wondered if they would placate advertising clients afraid of consumer backlash, the concerns of Internet surfers and the company's investors.
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