Pop-up ads invade Department of Homeland Security

Published February 23, 2005 11:07PM (EST)

There's a gator guarding your privacy at the Department of Homeland Security.

Among the appointees to the department's 20 member "Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee" is D. Reed Freeman, the "chief privacy officer" of Claria Corporation.

That's the company formerly known as Gator, infamous for its software, a.k.a. GAIN, which stands for Gator Advertising Information Network. It's sadly familiar to many frustrated Web surfers, who have been surprised to discover it mysteriously installed on their desktops serving them extra helpings of ads.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Dow Jones Company sued Gator back in 2002 for the way its ads appeared as parasites on their sites. But even though the original Gator software can be considered one of the original plague carriers of the spyware blight -- be careful about calling it that. The company has repeatedly threatened its critics with libel lawsuits for dubbing it "spyware."

The fact that a "privacy officer" for a company that made its name sneaking onto computers all over the word is now helping to determine what should be done with data collected by the Department of Homeland Security might be alarming to some people. But is it really all that shocking? The D.H.S.'s own chief privacy officer is no stranger to the ins and outs of interactive marketing either. She used to work for the online marketing firm, DoubleClick.

The Privacy Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting April 6, 2005 in Washington D.C. Can pop-up ads promoting every fluctuation in the terror alert level be far behind?

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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