This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Desperately Seeking the Next DoubleClick
Mar 07 2000 12:00 AM PST

After the fun it's had recently with DoubleClick (DCLK), the press may have become addicted to privacy stories. (In case you're just joining this storyline: The Net ad giant, under fire, shelved plans to breach the anonymity of visitors to the sites of its customers.)

This morning, three outlets ran almost identical stories about Topica's plan to sell advertisers the qualified eyeballs Topica hits with the thousands of e-mail lists it manages. ZDNet's tag invoked DoubleClick angst, but Wired News won for Best Head: "Hot Topica Conversation."

As it turns out, though, the Topica news had little in common with DoubleClick's consumer-hostile plan. Topica's mailing-list clients will remain anonymous to advertisers, and their participation in particular mailing lists carries at least the odor of consumer-friendly opt-in. The press may be flogging a dead privacy pony.

The Wall Street Journal's Michael J. McCarthy found a much more compelling privacy angle this morning. He turned in a long piece about Silent Watch, a software package that businesses use to monitor employees' keystrokes - all of them. McCarthy accurately reflected the current legal consensus that an employee can have little expectation of privacy when using his employer's computer. But McCarthy generated goosebumps with his depiction of Silent Watch recording every keystroke, typos and all, as an unwitting employee drafted an application letter for an aviation scholarship. McCarthy quoted the rhetorical question of a privacy-aware lawyer: "When else can you peer into someone's raw thought process?" - Keith Dawson

Hot Topica Conversation

E-mail List Maker Launches New Ad Service (Reuters)
San Jose Mercury News

An Alternative to DoubleClick Angst?

Keystroke Loggers Save E-Mail Rants, Raising Workplace Privacy Concerns
Wall Street Journal
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