DoubleClick has backtracked on its controversial plans to collect the details of people's names and online habits.

In a statement issued yesterday, the company's CEO Kevin O'Connor, admitted that he "made a mistake by planning to merge names with anonymous user activity across Web sites in the absence of government and industry privacy standards".

He pointed out that this plan has not been implemented, and said the company will not link personally identifiable information to anonymous user activity until there is an "agreement between government and industry on privacy standards".

The company, which electronically places adverts on Web sites, has been at the centre of controversy since it bought direct marketing firm Abacus last autumn. DoubleClick planned to merge the information it had collected on people's Internet habits with Abacus' database of names and other information.

This prompted private lawsuits and much protest from privacy groups. DoubleClick's reversal of its plans has drawn applause from the privacy lobby. In an Associated Press report, Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said: "This is a great step forward for Internet privacy. Companies will better recognize that they have to take privacy into account before building technologies or business practices on the Internet."