Online Anonymity May Fade

R. A. Hettinga rah at
Sun Feb 29 19:31:15 PST 2004



Online Anonymity May Fade
 Wed Feb 25, 2004 04:18 PM ET

 NEW YORK (Reuters) - Online profiling in which consumers' names and
addresses are connected to their Internet habits could be in the works as
consumers begin to trust the Web more, Kevin Ryan, the chief executive of
Internet advertiser DoubleClick, said on Wednesday.

 "There will be more targeting using this with customers having the ability
to opt out," Ryan told the Reuters Technology Media and Telecommunications
Summit in New York.

 While DoubleClick has no immediate plans to link data on specific Internet
users to their online behavior at this time, it may come down the road, he

 Ryan suggested that privacy concerns have eased over the years, similar to
how many people have relaxed about using their credit cards online.

 While people don't think twice now about using their credit cards for
online purchases, polls showed that Internet users in the late 1990s were
more afraid of fraud, he said.

 "I said the same thing many, many years ago, that I thought privacy
concerns would follow the credit card fraud concerns," he said. "What
happened was the actual risk wasn't that great. In fact, people started to
realize that nothing is 100 percent safe ever."

 In the early years of Internet advertising, DoubleClick was the subject of
several probes into its potential use of information gleaned about Internet
users from "cookies" -- small pieces of software that keep track of what
Web sites they visit.

 DoubleClick's 1999 acquisition of direct marketer Abacus Direct was of
particular concern for consumer groups worried about corporate abuse of
customer profiling. It provided DoubleClick with the ability to combine
data such as a person's name and address with information on the Web sites
they visit and items they purchase.

 The company agreed to keep those lines of information separate to address
privacy concerns.

 Abacus maintains a cooperative database that catalog companies and
publishers contribute information to about their customers, such as names,
addresses and purchase information. The data is collected by household, not
individuals, the DoubleClick Web site says.

 At the time of the merger, the market was not ready for sophisticated
targeting tools, Ryan said. "Businesswise, we felt like it didn't make
sense to link" those different types of consumer data, he added.

 Now, the market is "starting to kick in" to make such applications
worthwhile for advertisers, according to Ryan.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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