Is Google Getting Breaks from the EU, FTC?

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2007-10-11 Print this article Print


Can anything go wrong for Google? Two Reuters reports on the legal front for Google are framed in the search vendor's favor.

First, Reuters said the European Union's data watchdog will wait until 2008 to decide whether Google and other search engines are violating EU privacy laws by the way they mine data to better target searches.

Second, Reuters polled antitrust experts who predict that Google's $3.1 billion bid for DoubleClick will get the green light by U.S. regulators.

For the EU report, Reuters cited a "participant" in the watchdog's meeting who said, "We have written to Google to say that we are continuing our work, that it is not limited to Google, and that we will adopt an opinion at the beginning of 2008."

Given the drawn-out process, expect the EU to have stringent requirements for protecting people's search data. Google currently anonymizes users' search data after 18 months, but the EU could want more than that, giving Google headaches.

Considering how the EU has slapped Microsoft with a binding $613 million fine, don't expect leniency from the EU. Some overseas analysts have told me the EU doesn't look at Google as being much different from Microsoft on the American corporate greed front.

But if Google doesn't have to worry about it until the new year, its business carries on at its usual breakneck pace.

On the second report, Reuters polled several legal eagles who have watched the Federal Trade Commission stamp deal after deal for approval, and the consensus is that advertising is a big market and that Internet advertising is "wide open for new entrants."

If that's their conclusion, I have no reason to believe the FTC, made up of capitalism-loving politicians, will think or rule any differently.

Remember, it's not unlike the position the DOJ and FTC took about Oracle's hostile takeover of PeopleSoft in the applications market. It took a few years of knock-down, drag-out legal wrangling, but the federal watchdogs blessed the bid and it was all easy street for Oracle.

Expect the same outcome for Google-DoubleClick despite the sour-grapes opposition from Microsoft and others.

But don't forget, the EU is looking at this deal, too, and has a deadline of Oct. 26 to rule yea or nay. 
Ultimately, I think Google could have clear sailing to finish out another bang-up year. The company, whose stock price has soared past $600 this week, is about to report Q3 earnings. Analysts expect Google to report $3.75 earnings-per-share and a $57 million sales increase.

Expect even more accolades if the company pushes out that Google phone like everyone expects it to.


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