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DoubleClick able to settle privacy suits

The Internet advertising company gets court approval for an agreement that settles state and federal lawsuits that charged it with Net privacy violations.

DoubleClick on Tuesday received federal court approval to settle state and federal lawsuits that charged the Net advertising company with violating the privacy of Internet surfers.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted final approval of the class-action settlement agreement, which requires DoubleClick to provide consumers with a privacy policy that will clearly describe in "easy-to-read sentences" its online ad-serving service, use of cookies, as well as other services and technologies.

The settlement also requires the company to purge certain data files of personally identifiably information, including names, addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. Among other provisions, the settlement requires DoubleClick to obtain permission, or so-called opt-in agreements, from Internet surfers before it can tie personally identifiable information with Web surfing history.

In addition, DoubleClick must conduct a public information campaign consisting of 300 million banner ads that educate consumers on Internet privacy. Moreover, the company will retain an independent accounting firm that will conduct an annual review regarding DoubleClick's compliance of the settlement.

The suit follows a preliminary approval granted to DoubleClick two months ago. The suit clears up state class-action lawsuits filed from California, Texas and New York, which were consolidated last year.

Ira Rothken, one of the lead plaintiffs' settlement counsel, said the settlement is "reasonable" under the circumstances because the plaintiffs were given limited tools under the law to prosecute the case.

"I believe that we have a good result that will protect Internet users' privacy on the Internet," Rothken said. "I'm hopeful that the Internet advertising community as a whole will look at this settlement agreement for guidance on how to conduct their business online, and I'm also hopeful that Congress will provide legislation in the near future that will fill any voids that are left in the settlement agreement."

DoubleClick declined to comment on Tuesday's hearing. However, in a previous statement regarding the settlement, DoubleClick said it would continue to provide "the same full range of marketing solutions for its clients" alongside protections and controls to "safeguard consumer information."