Google, DoubleClick Deal Challenged Again

    September 17, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), US PIRG, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), discussed the proposed merger at a National Press Club meeting in Washington. They have filed a supplement to their original complaint about Google’s proposed $3.1 billion buy of ad network DoubleClick.

Google has an Achilles heel in its business, according to Joseph Turow, professor of communication at Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication. That would be the lack of display advertising capabilities.

DoubleClick neatly covers that vulnerability like a set of thick leather boots. That has the groups concerned. They want the Federal Trade Commission to block or modify the multi-billion dollar proposal Google has on the table to acquire the company.

The three groups submitted a second supplement to the FTC, claiming that without safeguards for consumer information in place, that data could be abused by government or commercial entities.

Google’s current stance on privacy calls for a global standard based on the APEC framework. Melissa Ngo of EPIC blasted that proposal as “feeble” during a conference call.

Amina Fazlullah of US PIRG thinks information collection centralized in this merger, with Google in its dominant position, will affect the consumer’s position in the marketplace. Pricing and item availability could be impacted by what Google would know with its aggregated information.

“Content producers would be stuck with very few choices,” Fazlullah said of advertising opportunities for that blanket group of industries, should the deal go through.

CDD executive director Jeff Chester said the “overwhelming share of control” possible from the deal poses a “profound threat to privacy at home and abroad.”

That seems to be the case for Canada, today, as the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic filed a request for an audit of the merger with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Google has posted an early response to the FTC’s concerns at its Public Policy blog.

Pablo Chavez, Google Policy Counsel, said in the post his company is “glad to see” the FTC readying its town hall meeting about online advertising on November 1 and 2.

“Late last week we sent comments recommending that the Town Hall address two additional topics,” said Chavez. “We did so in response to the FTC’s request for suggested Town Hall topics in addition to the very timely questions it already plans to pursue.”

Google has asked the FTC to consider “the rapidly changing business landscape of online advertising, and the role it plays in providing free, accessible, user-friendly, and high-quality content to consumers,” and “the ways in which online advertising is contributing to a healthy and vibrant small business community.”