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Congress to scrutinize Google-DoubleClick acquisition

The FTC is also investigating the $3.1B deal

By Linda Rosencrance
July 19, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee is investigating Google Inc.'s proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick Inc.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection is looking into the "far-reaching privacy and competition issues" surrounding the deal, according to a statement.

The Federal Trade Commission has already launched its own investigation into the acquisition, which was announced in April.

Rep. Bobby Rush, the panel's chairman, sent a letter to the FTC asking for a nonpublic briefing on its investigation and informing the agency of his plans to hold a hearing on the matter.

"There is widespread concern about the proposed merger between Google and DoubleClick that the Federal Trade Commission currently is reviewing," Rush said in the letter. "Concerns have focused not only on the implications for competition -- in online advertising and other possibly affected markets -- but also on the potentially enormous impact on consumer privacy."

Rush said he shares those concerns, and that the subcommittee takes the issue of consumer privacy "very seriously."

In April, shortly after Google announced the DoubleClick deal, several privacy groups filed a complaint asking the FTC to block the proposed acquisition unless the companies agreed to protect the privacy of online users.

Google said it is confident that the FTC will conclude the acquisition "poses no risk to competition."

Scott Cleland, an analyst at Precursor LLC in McLean, Va., wrote in his blog that he believes the FTC will block the merger.

"The FTC is likely to block the Google-DoubleClick merger because it will enable Google to dominate online advertising and dramatically increase the opportunity for market collusion and price manipulation in the market for consumer click data, ad-performance tools, ad-brokering and ad-exchanges," Cleland said.

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