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Google plan raises privacy issue - Los Angeles Times

04/17/2007 07:46 AM

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Google is viewed as having a mixed record on privacy issues. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company opposed a Justice Department request for millions of searches that the agency wanted to sample and won a court battle over the matter. Other search engines complied with the request, although they don't keep user histories for more than a few weeks.

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For its part, DoubleClick was for years a lightning rod for fears about the loss of privacy on the Internet. A public outcry in 2000 ended the New York-based company's efforts to use real-world names and Internet addresses in tracking online habits.

In 2002, DoubleClick settled lawsuits by state attorneys general and consumers over its privacy practices and promised to tell consumers more about their ability to block tracking cookies.

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After those missteps, Harvard's Deighton said, DoubleClick learned that "just because you can violate consumers' expectations of privacy without breaking the law does not mean you should."

At the same time, he added, "Google has had a long history of resisting the impulse to exploit individual surfing histories. I think they understand that it's even more important to show that restraint now."

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joseph.menn@latimes.com

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