DoubleClick has agreed to adopt self-regulation to preserve online privacy.

The US branch of the company has adopted principles supported by the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), the Federal Trade Commission and the Clinton administration.

Under the agreement, DoubleClick and all NAI companies will agree not to use "personally identifiable" information about sensitive medical and financial data, sexual preferences and social security numbers.

The company will require all its US clients – the people it handles advertising for – to post a privacy page which clearly states that a third-party ad server is collecting non-personally identifiable information (Non-PII) for profiling. All clients must offer a link to DoubleClick’s opt-out page, or to a gateway site, so that consumers can choose not to let their information be collected.

Additionally, the online advertising giant has agreed to establish a third-party enforcement program that will regulate compliance with the NAI principles. DoubleClick is appointing a privacy officer for the European region to ensure these guidelines are met, and that consumer privacy is protected.

US secretary of commerce Norman Mineta said: "Once fully implemented, these principles will constitute an effective and meaningful self-regulatory approach to privacy protection. They will provide appropriate protection for the privacy of individuals’ information."

Controversy over online privacy surrounded DoubleClick’s announcement that it intended merging data collected online with its vast database of the catalogue buying-habits of 88 million consumers.

Privacy advocates claim that the agreement still leaves gaps for advertisers and others to collect more data about computer users than before. Internet tracking companies, who track use and do not sell specific products, can place cookies with no formal contract. Advertising companies who act without formal contracts will also be able to circumvent the group’s policies.

DoubleClick says its commitment to privacy online is shown by its decision to adopt these proposals to secure the safety of online data.