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DoubleClick Brings Big Names Aboard to Address Privacy Concerns

In a sign that DoubleClick is serious about improving its image in the privacy arena, the company has brought aboard two big names -- New York City's consumer affairs commissioner, and a former attorney general of New York State -- to lead newly-created privacy-related positions.

Jules Polonetsky, the New York City consumer affairs commissioner, is taking the role of chief privacy officer at the troubled advertising firm. Former New York State AG Bob Abrams will serve as chair of DoubleClick's Privacy Advisory Board. Both positions were created as part of DoubleClick's efforts to deflect privacy concerns, in the wake of campaigns by consumer advocates.

"DoubleClick is dedicated to both guaranteeing user privacy and delivering effective on-line advertising that will keep the Internet free," said Kevin Ryan, president of DoubleClick.

"I believe that appointing Bob Abrams and Jules Polonetsky, two people who have dedicated their lives to consumer advocacy, shows our commitment to ensuring online privacy."

Last week, DoubleClick postponed plans to merge data collected online with information about offline consumer behavior, which it acquired when it bought Abacus Direct. It said it would wait to implement any plans until after industry groups, consumer groups, and government came to a conclusion about privacy standards.

The decision was spurred by months of mounting pressure, which included informal inquiries by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General's office, and threats of a lawsuit by the Michigan Attorney General's office.

In his new job, Polonetsky is charged with acting as a sort of ombudsman for Internet users. He will also coordinate with DoubleClick's clients to institute and police their privacy policies, and he will work to educate the public about the company's commitment to online privacy. Polonetsky will report directly to DoubleClick's Board of Directors.

"I look forward to working with industry leaders and policy makers to establish and implement effective privacy standards," said Jules Polonetsky, chief privacy officer at DoubleClick.

"This is an exciting opportunity to bring to online consumers the benefit of my experience as New York City's chief consumer law enforcement official."

Abrams will head a board of outside experts on Internet privacy, which will make recommendations on how DoubleClick can improve its privacy policies and procedures.