Republican members of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection are seeking a further look at the privacy implications of Google's proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick. The deal is currently under regulatory scrutiny at the Federal Trade Commission.
In a Nov. 6 letter to Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush, D.-Ill., Republican members of the panel urged Rush to schedule an oversight hearing on the merger.
The acquisition would combine two of the biggest players in online advertising. Google's text-based AdSense business is based on clickable links, while DoubleClick's technology places targeted banner ads and other display advertising on popular online sites.
"It seems to me that policymakers should know more about Google's intentions than we do, and a serious hearing to get at the facts looks like a very good idea," Rep. Joe Barton, R.-Texas, said in a statement.
At a September Senate hearing on the merger, Google Chief Legal Counsel David Drummond contended the deal does not foreclose other companies from competing in the online advertising market. Drummond pointed to Microsoft's $6 billion acquisition of online advertising firm aQuantive, which already has received the Federal Trade Commission's blessing, Yahoo's deal to buy Right Media and AOL's purchase of AdTech and Tacoda as proof of a vibrant online ad market.
To read more about why Google's DoubleClick deal is facing Senate scrutiny, click here.
"Each of the acquisitions following our purchase of DoubleClick demonstrates that there are sophisticated, well-financed and competitive companies that believe the online advertising space merits more investment and remains open to competition," Drummond said at the Senate hearing.
House Republicans, though, are more concerned about the privacy aspects of the merger.
"One focus of this hearing could be on how this information is used and what could be done to better protect consumer privacy," the Republicans' Nov. 6 letter states. "The privacy implications of such a merger are enormous and without an in-depth examination, we and the American public will not fully understand what all those implications might be."
Barton added in his comments that consumer privacy is being overlooked in the merger.
"The more I know about the Google-DoubleClick merger, the more I realize that that the personal privacy of computer users doesn't seem to be much of a priority," he said. "Google is an information colossus already, but add on DoubleClick's marketing power and you produce a single commercial entity that can know more about you and me than nearly everybody but mom and the IRS."
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital Democracy and U.S. PIRG filed an April 20 FTC complaint shortly after Google, of Mountain View, Calif., announced the deal, arguing the acquisition will give Google unprecedented ability to "record, analyze, track and profile" the activities of Internet users.
"Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick will give one company access to more information about the Internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world," the complaint states. "Moreover, Google will operate with virtually no legal obligation to ensure the privacy, security and accuracy of the personal data that it collects."
Nicole Wong, Google's deputy general counsel, issued a statement April 20 calling the complaint "unsupported by the facts and the law." Wong said the complaint "utterly fails to identify any practice that does not comply with accepted privacy standards."
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