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Privacy Hounds Bring DoubleClick to Heel—for Now

There's a DoubleClick billboard towering near the Flatiron Building. In giant letters, it reads: "DoubleClick Welcomes You to Silicon Alley"—as if the company holds a position so commanding that it alone can welcome you to the neighborhood. But the hubris here is warranted. DoubleClick is the sleekest cat in that crowded alleyway. No other firm comes as close to reaping genuine profits from online ads—the only things keeping this flimsy Web from collapsing under the weight of its own hype.

So consider again what it means if DoubleClick can't make a go of targeted banners. Web ads make sense only if they offer advantages that TV, radio, and print pitches do not. In other words, only if they can be targeted along the lines of O'Connor's original vision. When DoubleClick twisted in the wind, so did the Internet's future. Think the people who bet on that future, who want to see profiling triumph, will walk away from the table? Think DoubleClick won't bounce back from the lawsuits, editorials, and privacy slams? Know this: The day after O'Connor's statement, the stock jumped six points.

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