Congress to investigate Google-DoubleClick deal

A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee has opened an investigation into Google’s proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of online advertising seller DoubleClic k.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection will look into the “far-reaching privacy and competition issues raised by the proposed acquisition,” Representative Bobby Rush, the subcommittee chairman, said in a statement.

Rush informed the U.S. Federal Trade Commission of the investigation in a letter sent Tuesday. In May, the FTC opened its own investigation into the proposed acquisition.

The subcommittee will seek to host a hearing on the acquisition later this year, Rush said in the letter.

Consumer groups have raised concerns that the combined company would be a threat to privacy. In April, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group asked the FTC to block the merger unless it obtains guarantees from Google and DoubleClick that they will protect Internet users’ privacy. The groups want Google to destroy all cookies and other persistent identifiers resulting from Internet searches that are or could be personally identifiable once a user terminates a session with Google.

Other groups have raised concerns about the acquisition’s effect on competition in the online advertising market. Rush, an Illinois Democrat, shares those concerns, he wrote to the FTC. “The subcommittee takes very seriously the protection of consumer privacy,” he added.

Google said in a statement issued Thursday that it was confident the FTC would conclude the acquisition “poses no risk to competition.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is also planning hearings on the online advertising space, including recent acquisitions by Microsoft and Yahoo, according to a source familiar with the hearing plans.

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