US privacy groups have slammed the $1 billion proposed merger of Internet advertising company Doubleclick with consumer data collector Abacus Direct, arguing that it gives them too much access to personal data on consumers.
The non profit Electronic Privacy Information Center and the privacy slanted Web site Junkbusters said they were considering approaching the regulators to block the deal outright.
Doubleclick tracks surfers online around the Internet by depositing tracking codes called cookies everytime they view an ad the company has placed.
This facility together with Abacus's huge database of names, addresses and phone numbers collected from direct mail vendors would "severely undermine" the privacy of individual consumers said the groups in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and US government.
The groups maintain that if the merger is allowed to go ahead it will be creating a "surveillance machine" that will threaten the privacy of the general public.
"A prosecutor of the 21st century would regard Kenneth Starr's subpoena for the book purchases of Monica Lewinsky in a bookshop as a quaint and hopeful gesture, when thanks to your technology he could with a single order help himself to a comprehensive and detailed account of any individual's behaviour, online and offline," the groups said in their letter.
Doubleclick, however, claims it is not interested in blanket mailing. The company enables consumers to prevent data being collected about them by opting out at a privacy page on its site.
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