Staff Writer, CNET News.com
The Department of Homeland Security has named Claria, an adware maker that online publishers once dubbed a "parasite," to a federal privacy advisory board.
An executive from Claria, formerly called Gator, will be one of 20 members of the committee, the department said Wednesday.
"This committee will provide the department with important recommendations on how to further the department's mission while protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information of citizens and visitors of the United States," Nuala O'Connor Kelly, the department's chief privacy officer, said in a statement.
Claria bundles its pop-up advertising software with ad-supported networks such as Kazaa. Recently, the privately held company has been trying to seek credibility by following stricter privacy guidelines and offering behavioral profiling services to its partners.In an e-mail message to CNET News.com, Kelly defended the inclusion of a Claria representative on the committee. "I am proud of, supportive of and grateful for those individuals in the public and private sector who are willing to take on the hard tasks, fight the good fight, and who surprise us with creative, fresh and unconventional thinking, and who make change where change is needed through their hard work and personal dedication," Kelly said.
In the past, Claria's pop-up ad software has riled some users who claimed it was annoying, installed without permission, and not easy to delete. Publishers also were irked about pop-up ads for a rival's product appearing next to their own Web sites. Catalog retailer L.L. Bean sued Gator for alleged trademark infringement.
Claria's representative on the Homeland Security privacy board is company Vice President D. Reed Freeman, a former Federal Trade Commission staff attorney. Other members include executives from Intel, Computer Associates International, IBM, Oracle and the Cato Institute.Kelly said Freeman will "bring his courage and conviction to the board, and will contribute productively—and constructively—to the board's and the public's dialogue on privacy and homeland security."
The committee is tasked with providing "external expert advice to the secretary and the chief privacy officer on programmatic, policy, operational and technological issues that affect privacy, data integrity and data interoperability."
In February 2003, Gator settled a high-profile case brought by The Washington Post, The New York Times, Dow Jones and other media companies. Terms of that deal were quiet, but Claria appears to have stopped delivering pop-ups to those publishers' sites.Claria did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CNET News.com's Stefanie Olsen contributed to this report.