Reuters reports on a letter sent by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), chairman of the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary committee, to the Federal Trade Commission, raising privacy and antitrust questions concerning Google’s planned acquisition of mobile advertising company AdMob:
U.S. antitrust regulators should give “close scrutiny” to search engine giant Google Inc’s planned acquisition of mobile advertising leader AdMob, a leading antitrust senator said on Tuesday.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, one of two agencies to assess deals for antitrust concerns, is reviewing the acquisition. In November, Google announced plans to acquire mobile advertising firm AdMob for $750 million. […]
In his letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Kohl noted the explosive growth of mobile advertising as a market and added that it was important “to be wary of any transaction that would create undue market dominance of search or application-based advertising on mobile devices.”
Also in the letter, Kohl said, “The FTC should also pay close attention to the privacy interests implicated by this transaction, as the combined firm will gain access to a treasure trove of data on millions of consumers’ behavior, search and product preferences. The FTC should assure itself that the deal, if approved, will have sufficient safeguards to protect consumers’ privacy.”
Three years ago, when Google acquired advertising technology company Doubleclick, Kohl also raised questions about privacy and antitrust in a letter (pdf) to the FTC, as well as at a Senate hearing about the merger. At the hearing, he said:
But this merger – and the ongoing consolidation in the Internet advertising industry as a whole – raises equally important issues of consumer privacy. Google collects an enormous amount of information on computer users’ search history and Internet preferences. DoubleClick also collects a vast amount of information regarding consumers’ Internet preferences. While DoubleClick assures us today that this information is shared with no one other than the advertiser or the web site carrying the advertising, what will happen to this treasure trove of consumer data once Google gains control of DoubleClick? Do consumers need to worry about the security and use of their private, personal information as Google continues to grow more powerful?
Some commentators believe that antitrust policymakers should not be concerned with these fundamental issues of privacy, and merely be content to limit their review to traditional questions of effects on advertising rates. We disagree.