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Posted by Shar VanBoskirk on June 6, 2007
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.