December 20, 2007 - 10:07 am - Posted by iDunzo
After eight long months, the Federal Trade Commission finally approved Google’s $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick in a 4-1 vote, concluding that the deal is “unlikely to substantially lessen competition.”
In its public statement, the FTC explicitly said privacy concerns are not its problem. Privacy issues are “not unique to Google and DoubleClick,” the FTC statement said, and even if they were, the agency denied it could do anything about it.
“As the sole purpose of federal antitrust review of mergers and acquisitions is to identify and remedy transactions that harm competition.
The FTC lacks the legal authority to block the transaction on grounds, or require conditions to this transaction, that do not relate to antitrust.”
The DoubleClick acquisition, announced in April, comes on the heels of a few similar deals from competitors: Yahoo has spent nearly $1 billion building up its advertising arsenal in the last six months.
In July, it closed on its acquisition of Right Media ($650 million) and in October it closed on BlueLithium ($300 million), an online behavioral ad company. Meanwhile, Microsoft bought online ad company aQuantive for roughly $6 billion in August.
The FTC didn’t take nearly as long to approve any of Google’s competitors’ deals. Yahoo closed on BlueLithium in a month, and on Right Media in about three months. And it only took Microsoft roughly three months to complete the aQuantive acquisition.
Privacy groups were quick to chastise the FTC for not probing the privacy angle harder. Jeff Chester, executive director, Center for Digital Democracy, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the deal, is already calling for Congressional oversight hearings into the FTC’s probe of the merger.
“The FTC is supposed to protect the privacy of Americans in the digital age. The excuse offered by the majority of the commission–that consumer privacy can’t be addressed by current antitrust law–reveals a lack of leadership and determination to protect U.S. consumers.”