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Mailing lists and Web sites

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2000

Mailing lists and Web sites are ablaze these days with discussion of the recent disclosure that DoubleClick is now tracking users around the Web by name. Some are crying “Big Brother” while others are saying that they will welcome the improved manner in which businesses can target them and that privacy isn’t all that important to them. Both valid points, but ultimately, what DoubleClick is doing is not good for me:

   - I visit probably 100-500 individual Web pages each day, maybe more. That is an incredible amount of information that they are gathering on me each day, much more than anyone could gather on me as I perform my offline day-to-day tasks. And it’s more diverse information as well, which makes it more interesting to a wider variety of companies. This increased exposure of my information can do nothing but subject me to more junk mail, phone calls, and spam…that I don’t need.

   - Not that the junk mail and spam won’t be more closely targeted at me, but DoubleClick does not have my best interest at heart. They aren’t thinking: “this is great for consumers!” They’re thinking, “we can sell this valuable list of data for big bucks to anyone that wants to sell something!” We’re data points to them, not people. The possible benefits of better junk mail (i.e. getting a coupon for a Palm V in the mail because they noticed that you were researching them online) is just a side effect of their business.

   - As an individual, I have the right to my personal privacy. It is the stance of DoubleClick (and many other businesses) that I do not have that right. It is in fact quite the reverse: they have the right to gather as much information as they can on me and then use that information to their best advantage, even if it means inconveniencing me personally (sometimes to an extreme). This is very similar to being presumed guilty until proven innocent.

If you want my advice, opt out of the DoubleClick cookie, which disallows them to follow you around the Web by name. Maybe even talk to your ISP about blocking their cookies at their level. Complain to the companies who are selling *your* information to DoubleClick…especially if they told you that they would never do any such thing. Protect your rights or you will lose them.