DoubleClick Replies

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DoubleClick Replies

by Sean Harvey, October 26, 2005

Hi Ari,

This is Sean Harvey, Ad Serving Relations Manager at DoubleClick. We read your article on DoubleClick in Free Colorado last week and wanted to provide some feedback. First off, we appreciate your attempt to provide different sides of the story, however there were some basic inaccuracies that we wanted to address.

First off, DoubleClick is not a spyware company in that spyware consists of locally installed, downloadable applications that are placed surreptitiously on the desktops of consumers and perform malicious or privacy threatening actions.

DoubleClick is an ad serving system that is used by website publishers to serve the ads that you see on their websites. These ads are what make online content free to consumers. If there were no ads, the websites in question would have no way to generate revenue and thus would have to charge consumers large subscription fees for each website that you visit on the Internet.

Ad serving is extremely complicated and expensive to build and maintain. Therefore websites typically outsource this functionality to third party systems like DoubleClick. Only the very largest web portals like Yahoo, Google and MSN can afford to build and maintain their own ad servers, and even then, more efficiencies can be gained by using a third-party provider like DoubleClick. AOL is in fact a recent convert and uses DoubleClick to manage all its online ad inventory on AOL Media Networks.

As part of its ad serving mechanism, DoubleClick uses cookies that are placed on the web browser of visitors to the websites that hire DoubleClick. These cookies are used for basic ad serving functionality and reporting:

* frequency capping, so you don't see the same ad repeatedly

* ad rotation, so that the website can rotate the ads that you see in a specific order

* reporting on reach and frequency, i.e. the high-level number of unique browsers that viewed a given ad, and the frequency at which an ad was viewed, on average, by a consumer

With regard to reach and frequency reporting, it is important to note that this is a total number (e.g., this ad campaign reached 10,000 unique users, and 4,000 of these users saw the ad three times) and contains no personal information. It is unrelated to any given individual. As such, the USA Today article you quote contained inaccurate information. DoubleClick does not track you as you surf along the Internet. And it is EXTREMELY important to emphasize that USA Today's statement that DoubleClick assembles profiles of users based on their surfing habits is flatly false.

DoubleClick's use of cookies became a matter of public scrutiny several years ago when DoubleClick proposed the idea of linking its cookies to its offline Abacus database for ad targeting purposes. This proposal was vetted with the Federal Trade Commission, however due to negative feedback from consumers, this plan was abandoned. Again, it is important to note that DoubleClick NEVER linked its cookies to Abacus or any other offline consumer database.

Currently, some anti-spyware applications target not only DoubleClick but all standard website cookies used for ad-serving, research, analytics and other basic, necessary website functions as if they were "spyware". Some of these vendors make false statements about DoubleClick and other vendors. Since our cookies do not constitute a privacy threat to any individual, we consider this an attempt by the immature anti-spyware industry to falsely inflate its "spyware" numbers in order to increase the perceived value of their products. Targeting cookies -- a standard Internet technology required for the maintenance of state across web pages and website sessions -- as if they were spyware allows these companies to claim that spyware exists on every single page of the Internet -- a patently bogus claim.

In addition, consumers already have granular controls for cookies in all standard web browsers, and via opt-out mechanisms like DoubleClick's, which are available directly from our website:

DoubleClick is proud of its role as a major high-tech employer in Colorado, and as the leading provider of the ad-serving services that continue to make website content free to consumers.

Thanks for the opportunity to share more information with you about DoubleClick.

All best,

Sean Harvey

The Colorado Freedom