The Federal Trade Commission said Monday that it has ended its investigation into DoubleClick's privacy policies in its ad serving and data collection practices, effectively clearing the online ad giant from wrongdoing for the time being.
In addition, the FTC concluded that DoubleClick "has not used sensitive data for any online preference marketing product."
The FTC investigation began in February, after the company said it planned to combine online profiles with personally identifiable information from the databases of its newly acquired subsidiary, Abacus Direct, an offline marketing firm.
While DoubleClick quickly retreated from its plans to combine the databases -- in response to public outcry -- the FTC launched an investigation to ensure that the ad network was holding to its word of not combining consumer data that it had collected online with personally identifiable data it had acquired from Abacus.
"DoubleClick remains committed to ensuring the highest level of online consumer privacy, both within our company and throughout the industry," said DoubleClick chief executive Kevin Ryan of the resolution.
The FTC did leave the door open for future investigation of the firm, if events warrant. The FTC's Joel Winston, acting associate director of the FTC's division of financial practices, wrote in the letter that that the closing of the case didn't necessarily indicate a finding of innocence.
Nevertheless, Monday's closing of the FTC's investigation into DoubleClick does bode well for the New York-based firm, which has been under close scrutiny by privacy advocates, legislators, and state attorneys general since it first announced its plans to merge anonymous online and personally identifiable offline information. Several of those lawsuits are still pending but could waver in the wake of the FTC's conclusions.
DoubleClick also needs the vindication of its privacy policies because it plans to roll out at least one product this year that draws heavily on the Abacus database. Although it has released few details, the coming product is designed to combine anonymous online data with anonymous data from Abacus -- and DoubleClick would no doubt prefer if it didn't raise eyebrows.
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March 19, 2014