According to the New York Times, the US Federal Trade Commission has begun an inquiry into the planned acquisition of Doubleclick by Google: Google Deal Said to Bring U.S. Scrutiny - New York Times:
Privacy groups said it was significant that the F.T.C., the agency that monitors online privacy issues, would be conducting the review.
“We think it’s very important that the F.T.C. is taking a look at the Google-DoubleClick deal,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy rights group.
In the days after the planned merger was announced, Mr. Rotenberg’s center and two other advocacy groups, the Center for Digital Democracy and the United States Public Interest Research Group, filed a request for the F.T.C. to investigate the privacy implications.
In the complaint, the groups noted that Google collects the search histories of its users, while DoubleClick tracks what Web sites people visit. The merger, according to their complaint, would “give one company access to more information about the Internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world.”
Google has built a lucrative business in selling small text ads that appear alongside its search results and on other Web sites. DoubleClick is the leader among companies that specialize in placing graphical and video ads online.
Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said that decisions made now about the structure of the online advertising industry could have lasting effects on data collection and personal privacy on the Internet, especially if control rests with a “few powerful gatekeepers” led by Google.
Still, privacy issues are not typically the concern of antitrust officials. In reviewing a proposed merger, legal experts say, regulators weigh the likely impact on competition and struggle with tricky technical matters like defining the relevant market to measure.