FTC Asked to Block Google-DoubleClick Merger

The chorus of opposition to the proposed Google-DoubleClick deal grew louder Friday as three interest groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy concerns.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, Center for Digital Democracy, and U.S. Public Interest Research Groups are petitioning the FTC to block the merger until concerns over Google's data collection and storage are addressed.

"The acquisition of DoubleClick will permit Google to track both a person's Internet searches and a person's web site visits," the three organizations said in a joint 11-page complaint. The privacy of 1.1 billion Internet users is at stake, they argue.

EPIC had previously called DoubleClick's practices into question seven years ago, when it asked the FTC to look into its plans to merge data into its systems on consumer's offline behavior following the purchase of Abacus, a direct marketing company.

DoubleClick later gave up on that initiative, and ended its measure to profile online consumers altogether. In many ways, this new complaint is very similar to that project, in that Google would like to merge search data with DoubleClick's information.

Google is being accused of unfair and deceptive trade practices, and failing to follow the standards set by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which list industry standards for consumer privacy.

This is not the only effort to address privacy concerns surrounding Google's data collection practices: a European privacy rights group plans to begin a similar effort against the company across the Atlantic.

To its defense, Google has said it had a "history of being an advocate for user privacy," and is "committed to transparency for end users, and to respecting the choices they make with regards to their privacy preferences."

However, these groups aren't buying it. "Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick will give one company access to more information about the Internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world," the complaint reads.

Furthermore, the Mountain View, Calif. company would have no legal obligation to ensure the "privacy, security, and accuracy of the personal data that it collects," it continues.

Among the relief the three groups are asking for is a full investigation into Google's data collection methods; removal of DoubleClick's persistent cookies to identify users, unless permission is given by the user; and forcing Google to comply with commonly accepted privacy guidelines.

Neither Google nor DoubleClick had any immediate comment on the complaint.

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