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U.S. judge drops DoubleClick privacy case

A federal judge has dismissed a federal privacy suit against the Web's chief online advertising network, the company says.

A federal judge dismissed a federal privacy suit against DoubleClick, the Web's chief online advertising network, the company said Friday.

The New York-based company said it prevailed in a class-action suit in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York. The suit, dismissed by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, alleged that the company improperly used or monitored confidential data of Web site visitors in delivering online ads, breaking several state and federal laws.

At issue was the company's use of electronic tags, known as cookies, to monitor consumers' habits on the Web, enabling it to deliver targeted marketing messages from advertisers.

Friday's win for DoubleClick follows the Federal Trade Commission's decision in January to close its investigation of the company's data-collection practices. The FTC said it found that the company did not violate its privacy policy.

Plaintiffs from the federal court case offered 13 state filings, which were consolidated for efficiency in July 2000. Buchwald said that the plaintiffs failed "to plead violations of any of the three federal statutes under which they bring suit": the Electronic Privacy Act, the Wiretap Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

"DoubleClick has always maintained that its business practices are in compliance with the law, and this decision confirms that," DoubleClick Chief Executive Kevin Ryan said in a statement.

Although privacy litigation against DoubleClick has been buttoned up on the federal level, it hasn't been on the state level. Ira Rothken, a San Rafael, Calif., lawyer who filed a case against DoubleClick last year in Marin County Superior Court, said that California statutes on privacy provide for stronger protections than on the federal level, giving his suit a greater chance of success.

"Our California Constitution gives us a right to sue private companies for impairment of privacy rights, including the massive collection of data and loss of control by consumers of that data, which are the allegations we have against DoubleClick and others," said Rothken, a partner at Rothken Law Firm Civil Litigation & High-Tech Law.

"We believe we'll prevail on the state level, and we'll prefer to have one unified federal law that will provide for guidance in the privacy area," Rothken said.

There is a similar case pending against DoubleClick in Texas.