Essay on The Legality and Ethics of Internet Advertising

1777 Words8 Pages
The Legality and Ethics of Internet Advertising

ABSTRACT: Recently, DoubleClick.com, one of the world’s premier Internet advertising firms was at the center of a Federal Trade Commission investigation on privacy. Consumer privacy advocates have charged the company with infringing on the privacy of websurfers because of the aggressive means it uses to gather data for profit. This paper discusses the legal and moral issues surrounding these tactics. Were the company’s aggressive tactics legally permissible? Were they ethical? Companies such as DoubleClick need to inform the websurfer that he/she is being monitored.

The world of the Internet uses advertising as its central driving force. Internet start-up companies have
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If you give your name and address to a website that is a client of DoubleClick, then DoubleClick could link your previously anonymous web browsing to you personally. To gain even more access to information about consumers, DoubleClick recently acquired Abacus Direct2. Abacus Direct is the holder of the US's largest direct mail data list, it has information on an estimated 88 million American households. It has consumers' names, addresses, and phone numbers, along with information on their shopping and financial habits. Early in the year 2000, DoubleClick began merging the two databases. When this happened different consumer and privacy advocacy groups sounded an alarm3. They had always been opposed to DoubleClick's practices, but DoubleClick's last step was too much.

Different lawsuits were brought to the courts alleging violations of consumer's privacy4. On February 17 of last year, the Federal Trade Commission began doing an inquiry into the business practices of DoubleClick. At around the same time, the Michigan state attorney charged the company with violating the consumer protection laws. Jennifer Granholm, the Michigan state attorney, said that planting cookies on a person’s hard drive without their knowledge or consent was illegal5. She compared the whole practice to the wire-tapping and surveillance of an individual. In its own defense, DoubleClick contends that the privacy of users is protected because their

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