Today, the Federal Trade Commission has closed the investigation of the proposed acquisition of DoubleCLick by Google, indeed a very nice Christmas gift to Google. Apart from that, and closely tied to it, the FTC comes with principles for self regulation of the market of online behavioral advertising, about which it held a two day town hall early November 2007. The principles are under consultation until February 22nd, 2008.
The FTC is not unanimous, but 4-1. Jones Harbour dissents, asserting that “at this time, without imposing any conditions on the merger, neither the competition nor the privacy interests of consumers will have been adequately addressed.”
Further on she argues for a broader scope of the analysis, including consumer protection, referring explicitly to the creation of one dominant database of intentions (quoting Batelle): “The transaction will combine not only the two firmsâ€™ products and services, but also their vast troves of data about consumer behavior on the Internet. Thus, the transaction reflects an interplay between traditional competition and consumer protection issues. The Commission is uniquely situated to evaluate the implications of this kind of data merger, from a competition as well as a consumer protection perspective. The Commission should maximize its opportunity to do so, especially where the merged firm will be capable of dominating the ‘Database of Intentions’.”
She concludes that the merger will have the potential to cerate efficiencies, but “has greater potential to harm competition, and it also threatens privacy.“
That’s Jones Harbour’s Christmas present to the search and advertisement giant.