Federal and state class-action litigation against online advertising/technology shop DoubleClick reached a settlement, it was announced Friday.

The agency has given undertakings on a series of measures designed to protect consumer privacy – among them fuller disclosure of how data will be used, a commitment to erase old consumer data, and the posting of three hundred million banner ads containing consumer information about internet privacy.

The complaints against DoubleClick stem from 1999 when it acquired direct marketing firm Abacus Direct and revealed plans to link Abacus's database of names and addresses with its own database of internet user behavior. Following a tsunami of protest from consumer rights and privacy organizations, DoubleClick eventually dropped the scheme.

The settlement will result in the dismissal of outstanding federal and state class-action privacy lawsuits filed against the agency since January 2000. The US District Court for the Southern District of New York will finally approve the deal at a hearing on May 21.

DoubleClick has agreed to pay legal fees and costs of up to $1.8 million to the thirty-one law firms representing plaintiffs, a charge already provided for as an operating expense in the agency’s accounts during the third quarter of 2001.

Chorused the three leading legal eagles representing the plaintiffs: “We accomplished the main goal of the litigation - namely to ensure that there is a strong set of protections in the event DoubleClick attempts to merge clickstream and personal information. We are hopeful that the rest of the online advertising industry looks to this case as setting a standard for the future.”

But all is not yet sweetness and light. At least one privacy group, The Electronic Privacy Information Center (www.epic.org), which filed the original FTC complaint against DoubleClick in 2000, threatens to oppose the settlement.

“There's very little here for consumers,” opined EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg. “We think the FTC should have stepped in and made clear that DoubleClick could not continue the practice of secretly profiling internet users.”

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff