FTC review of Google/DoubleClick: No big whoop

You have probably heard the scuttlebutt around the FTC investigation into Google's acquisition of DoubleClick.  Last week, the FTC confirmed that it would conduct an antitrust review of the deal, paying particular attention to the amount of consumer data DoubleClick gives Google access to.   

My take is that this is all much ado about nothing.  Why?

*Google is an easy target.  Google is so large, and has seen such rapid growth over the last 3 years, that we all (competitors, consumers, government officials, press, industry analysts) can't help but be a little suspicious of them.  And maybe a little jealous of their wealth and presence. 

*Other acquisitions give several online players similar sets of services.  I didn't think the "anti-trust" cry made a lot of sense even immediately after Google announced its plans to purchase DoubleClick.  Indeed Google picked up a new set of online advertising capabilities, and indeed it is the largest provider in the space.  But there are thousands of other ad networks and publishers and service providers which smart marketers should embrace for the unique value they provide.  And, the antitrust concern is even less credible now since Microsoft, Yahoo and WPP have all made acquisitions of their own to broaden their suite of services and stay competitive with Google.

*Consumers willingly yield their personal information.  Consumers raise concerns about the availability of their data online.  Yet research shows that they are actually quite willing to relinquish it for an improved customer experience or to maintain free access to content and offers.  The concern about Google's data access is certainly worthwhile.  But I doubt that most consumers really intend (or know how to) protect/not share their data with any online media players. 

As long as Google acts responsibly to manage consumer data (and really, why wouldn't they?), I expect this will all blow over.  Frankly, I'm more concerned about the Equifaxes, TransUnions and Experians of the world who can quite legally sell my credit history, address, and family profile to anyone interested.

Comments

re: FTC review of Google/DoubleClick: No big whoop

What a cynical--and ultimately inaccurate--view of consumer privacy rights. Research indicates most people do care about their data. Perhaps your view is tempered by your client base. But if Forrester is to remain credible, it must address the issues in an objective way. We have raised serious privacy and anti-competitive issues related to Google and Doubleclick before the FTC. You may not be taking it seriously--but many people at FTC and elsewhere are.

re: FTC review of Google/DoubleClick: No big whoop

Hi Jeff -- Thanks for your comment. I would certainly agree with you that consumer privacy is a big deal. The challenge our research points out is that consumers (representative of the US population) definitely think personal privacy is a big deal, but actually do very little to protect their own personal data (in fact, they are willing to trade in personal data for discounts, free content, even more personalized Web experiences.)My point in the blog post regarding Google/DoubleClick and the FTC is that I think it is every marketer's and publisher's responsibility to maintain ethical data management processes and to educate consumers about how their data will be used. I think Google and DoubleClick both are well aware of this and are smart enough to treat consumer data with the integrity it deserves (and of course they understand the consequences if they do not). Perhaps you think my tone too insouciant for a discussion about consumer privacy? My intent was not meant to diminish the value of consumer personal data, but rather to illuminate that I don't expect anything to happen in result of the FTC investigation. I continue to maintain this position.