Consumer Privacy Issues Threaten Google/DoubleClick Merger

Dennis Faas's picture

Three consumer advocate organizations have filed a joint complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting that the Google/DoubleClick merger be stopped.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the US Public Interest Research Group submitted the complaint on April 20th. The complaint asserts that "neither Google or DoubleClick have taken adequate steps to safeguard the personal data that is collected." The 11 page document goes on to ask the FTC to halt the merger until the "unfair and deceptive trade practices" are changed. (Source:

The complaint says that Google's acquisition of DoubleClick "will give one company access to more information about the Internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world. There is simply no consumer privacy issue more pressing for the Commission to consider than Google's plan to combine the search histories and Web site visit records of Internet users." (Source:

Although the complaint comments on DoubleClick's procedures for collecting data, only Google is accused of unfair and deceptive trade practices.

Specifically, the groups assert that Google does not properly inform users about its data collection practices, particularly the practice of collecting search queries and pairing them with IP addresses.

Although Google does disclose this information, it is not easy to find; users must click four times from the home page to find the information. The groups are also unhappy with the fact that users are unable to opt out of Google's collection of search terms. (Source:

The proposed solution? According to the complaint, the merger should only go ahead after the FTC investigates Google's ability to track users' Internet activities. The complaint also requests that DoubleClick removes all potentially identifying information from its archives before handing over the data to Google, and that Google provides users with access to the personally identifiable data collected about them. (Source:

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