California Woman Sues DoubleClick for Privacy Invasion

A California woman filed suit against DoubleClick Thursday, accusing the advertising firm of illegally collecting and selling consumers’ personal information.

DoubleClick didn’t immediately return calls requesting comment on the lawsuit.

The suit, filed by Harriet Judnick in California Superior Court in Marin County, asks the court to bar DoubleClick from using technology to collect personal information without the prior written consent of the Internet user. It also asks that DoubleClick be required to destroy all records obtained without a consumer’s knowing consent.

The woman’s lawyers, Rothken Law Firm, say she wants to represent the state’s general public in the suit.

“Even if Doubleclick provides warnings, such warnings give no protection to many unsophisticated web-surfers. One wrong click and the originally anonymous cookie becomes a window into that consumer’s private life,” says Ira Rothken, Judnick’s lawyer.

“Consumers must be allowed to first give their conscious, informed and affirmative consent before Doubleclick is given access to their private, personal information.”

Were Judnick to win, the lawsuit could have serious implications not just for DoubleClick, but for the Internet advertising industry as a whole. Although DoubleClick has been the most visible ad company, as the leader in the sector, other firms regularly collect information about customers through cookies. The methods, types of information, and its use, though, differ from company to company.

DoubleClick has especially attracted privacy advocates’ attention since it acquired Abacus Direct, which possesses prodigious databases about consumers’ offline habits. The cross-referencing of this information with the online data represents the biggest threat to consumer privacy, say advocates.

The lawsuit accuses DoubleClick of using technology to identify Internet users, track and record their movements on the Web, and obtain confidential and personal information names, addresses, ages, shopping patterns, and financial information – about them without their consent.

The suit claims that DoubleClick, while making public statements about the importance of privacy, is collecting information that it claims not to be gathering.

“Doubleclick has an obligation to the general public using the Internet to truthfully and adequately inform them about what Doubleclick is taking from them, namely, their personal, private information,” says Rothken.

“Internet users have a right to privacy and to be free from false and misleading advertising, protected by the laws of the State of California.”

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