Privacy Groups Object to Google/DoubleClick Deal

Three consumer advocate groups, including The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (US PIRG) filed an FTC complaint today objecting to Google's proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick.

"Google will operate with virtually no legal obligation to ensure the privacy, security and accuracy of the personal data that it collects. At this time, there is simply no consumer privacy issue more pressing for the commission to consider than Google's plan to combine the search histories and Web site visit records of Internet users," the complaint says.

In a reiteration of its typical party line, a Google rep told the Washington Post that Google would never undermine user trust because that would decrease the value of Google's products.

The FTC, however, doesn't typically block mergers based on privacy issues. Check this quote from 1999, when DoubleClick acquired Abacus:

"We have no grounds to challenge the merger based on privacy concerns. We and the Department of Justice evaluate mergers based on competition issues," an FTC staffer said. "We're not looking at the Abacus-DoubleClick merger specifically, but we are interested in these privacy issues in general and are sensitive to the concerns."

Of course, DoubleClick eventually dropped its plan to merge the Abacus database in 2000 due to public pressure. DoubleClick sold Abacus last December.