Google faces antitrust lawsuit

29 May 2007

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), independent consumer rights protection agency in the US, has filed an antitrust suit against Google on the back of the search engine giant’s proposed US$3.1m acquisition with online ad agency DoubleClick.

Following Google’s announcement on 13 April to buy DoubleClick, Microsoft cried foul, saying that the “proposed acquisition raises serious competition and privacy concerns in that it gives the Google DoubleClick combination unprecedented control in the delivery of online advertising”.

Microsoft, whom itself had entered in the bidding for DoubleClick, went on to say that the company would worryingly have “access to a huge amount of consumer information by tracking what customers do online”.

If allowed to go ahead, this new online advertising force would control over 80pc of adverts that end up on web publishers’ sites. Following suit from Microsoft, the FTC has been keeping a close eye on the Google/DoubleClick deal.

The data privacy issue comes into question with this imminent acquisition. Many internet users have varying types and amounts of information scattered between different internet services. As Google acquires smaller companies, its bank of personal user data grows.

According to Google’s privacy policy small print, it declares its intention to do as much. “We may combine personal information collected from you with information from other Google services or third parties.”

As evidenced last week, the EU is clearly not happy with Google’s control of vast data banks either. The Article 29 Working Party, compromised of the data commissioners from 28 EU countries, sent a letter to Google, asking it to justify its data retention policy of up to two years.

Although the DoubleClick acquisition has not been completely signed and sealed, Google chairman Eric Schmidt is confident that despite the outcry of the FTC the company will be able to comply with regulations and dominate the online advertising space.

By Marie Boran