The Night Watch: DoubleClick's Privacy Probe Leaves Stock in the Dumps

After being halted most of the afternoon, the stock has resumed trading and, well, things aren't going too well.
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DoubleClick is in DoubleTrouble.

It was last off 9 11/16 to 96 3/4 on 711,000 shares on

Island

ECN after news of a

Federal investigation into the company's data collection policies sent it tumbling like a tricycle in a cyclone.

The winds picked up this afternoon when DoubleClick, an Internet advertising company, was halted pending news at 1:05 p.m. EST. It never resumed trading during the day session and ended off 4 15/16, or 4.4%, to 106 1/2.

Then the news hit the Street. The

Federal Trade Commission

had launched an investigation into DoubleClick's data-collection policies. At issue: Internet privacy rights.

It all started with a lawsuit and a complaint.

On Jan. 27, a Californian named Hariett Judnick filed suit against DoubleClick, charging that the company had unlawfully obtained and sold private consumer information. Essentially, the suit claims that the Webvertiser records personal consumer information like names, addresses and financial information and uses it to track consumer purchases without obtaining individual consent. In a short press release on Jan. 28, the company said it "was committed to protecting the privacy of all Internet users, and to providing consumers with notice and choice."

Then last Thursday another action was taken against the company. The

Electronic Privacy Information Center

, a nonprofit organization focused on Internet privacy issues, filed a formal complaint with the FTC. They said that DoubleClick's ability to track users using personal information was deceptive and unfair.

Over this past weekend, things quieted down a bit. And on Monday, Valentine's Day, DoubleClick responded to its critics and unveiled the "Internet Privacy Education Campaign," a privacy initiative promoting awareness of privacy issues. The company said it will blanket the Web with 50 million banners that all link back to

www.privacychoices.org

, which conveniently enough, is maintained and operated by DoubleClick itself. On the site, people can learn about privacy issues and opt-out of DoubleClick's ability to collect data, blocking access to their personal information.

But that initiative wasn't enough to quell Federal interest. Rumors about the news pressured the stock heavily in the final minutes before its postlunch halt. By the time it resumed at 4:12 p.m., the company had already said it was the subject of another investigation, this one an informal effort from the

New York Attorney General's

office to grasp online advertising and its consequences for consumers.

The stock came off its halt in time for the postclose session, touching off a tornado of activity. Investors took shelter from the storm and were selling heavily, dropping it down 7 by 4:30 p.m. and miring it in 10-point losses by the time the little hand hit the number five.

What's

Jim Cramer

make of all this? Naturally, he's

got an opinion.

Another winning streak extended this evening, and no we're not talking about the

Portland Trailblazers'

recent dominance.

We're talking about

Superconductor Technologies

(SCON) - Get Report

which rose 3 1/8 to 34 on 59,852 shares on Island ECN after gaining 17 3/4, or 135.2%, to 30 7/8 during the day session. The stock hit a 52-week-high after the company announced it received 27 new orders for its SuperFilter System, which helps improve cellular telecommunications quality. This increases the number of orders in its backlog to 56.

Island ECN, owned by Datek Online, offers trading, mainly in Nasdaq-listed stocks, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

.

MarketXT, formerly Eclipse Trading, offers after-hours trading to retail clients of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's (MWD) Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Online, Mellon Bank's (MEL) Dreyfus Brokerage Services and clients of Salomon Smith Barney. It is also available to clients of Mydiscountbroker.com, CyBerCorp and Interactive Brokers. Clients can trade 200 of the most actively traded New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market issues, 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST Monday through Thursday.

Confused?

TheStreet.com

explains how the rules change when the sun goes down in Investing Basics: Night Owl, a section devoted to after-hours trading.