The relevant issues swirling around the pending acquisition of DoubleClick by Google are little understood by the public, pundits, and even, it would seem, by Congress and the regulators charged with approving or disapproving the deal. Danny has written at length about the competitive implications of the deal. But privacy concerns have gotten mixed up in the discussion. What’s very clear, however, is that privacy is not relevant to the anti-trust considerations before the FTC. (Privacy is an important debate, but not immediately relevant to the legal issues before the committee.)
There are a range of pieces today from various publications that address FTC procedures and various aspects of the debate.
CNET and the NY Times also report on House Republican Joe Barton’s privacy-oriented attack on the proposed deal as potentially being against consumer interests. (Again, privacy isn’t relevant to the anti-trust questions before the committee.) The CNET piece includes the full text of the letter from Barton to Google.
The EU recently decided to apply greater scrutiny to the deal and is undertaking a review that will address some of the same competitive concerns before the FTC. The Europeans have historically been harder on such issues than their American counterparts, who tend to take a more hands-off approach.
It would still appear likely that Google will be granted permission to proceed with the acquisition. However, the longer all this regulatory wrangling goes on, the more it becomes a problem for Google. The confusion of the relevant legal issues before the FTC is also a problem for Google.
What’s clear is that some in Congress are trying to score political points and gain some personal PR exposure with these letters about consumer privacy. Privacy issues are highly important and are the proper subject of public debate, but they’re not relevant to the question of whether the DoubleClick merger should be approved. And Google shouldn’t be singled out for privacy scrutiny. The entire industry should be part of that discussion.