Google Tells EU Of Devotion To Privacy

But Google's lawyer got testy when pressed on privacy

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The dominant search advertising company worked on convincing members of a European Parliament Committee that its DoubleClick purchase won’t infringe on people’s privacy.

Despite the potential for Google having access to an astonishing breadth of Internet user information, the company wants the obstacle that is the European Union to see the DoubleClick acquisition as a simple merger of complementary business lines.

At the Google Public Policy blog, global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer discussed his visit to Brussels ahead of his remarks to the Committee.

“We put great effort into building privacy protections into our products and systems,” said Fleischer. “We also have clear privacy policies based on the principles of transparency and choice.”

When the showdown between Google and the Committee took place today, Reuters cited a combative response from Fleischer. Pressed by privacy advocates and questioners from both side of the Atlantic, Fleischer apparently showed some frustration:

“People (are) trying to take a privacy case and shoehorn it into a competition law review … I can understand that people continue to peddle this theory in Europe after having lost in the United States,” Peter Fleischer said. His attack did little to calm the waters.

Peddle that theory, Mr. Fleischer? Mais oui, we have our questions. Scott Cleland summarized the data a combined Google and DoubleClick could tap:

To equal Google-DoubleClick’s level of market concentration in the intermediary online advertising market, one single financial services company would have to own:

•  The top 15 Wall Street banks/asset managers;

•  ~60% of the hedge fund and private equity industries;

•  The New York and London Stock Exchanges;

•  The two leading providers of financial analytical tools: Bloomberg and Factset;

•  Two of the three national providers of credit profiles: Experian and Equifax; and

•  ~60% of the Federal Reserve’s and U.S. Census Bureau’s raw market and consumer data.

We must note Cleland’s objectivity has been questioned, his analysis cited as pablum regurgitated by the cable and telecoms that oppose net neutrality, which Google and other Internet companies favor. But this assessed depth of information Google could access with a DoubleClick takeover has not been questioned.

Could there be a little impatience on Google’s part? The company expected to wrap up the deal by the end of 2007. Federal Trade Commission regulators did their part in rubberstamping the buy; we must also note the FTC and law firm Jones Day never have fully explained how the latter proceeded from touting DoubleClick as an antitrust client to cleansing all reference to the company from its website.

Curiouser and curiouser, a little child once said. But this story doesn’t tell us how far down the rabbit hole online privacy will go.

Google Tells EU Of Devotion To Privacy
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