Advocate fears privacy woes from Google-DoubleClick

The Electronic Privacy Information Center says this deal is the single biggest privacy meltdown that the Internet is currently facing.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Thursday that it won't try to block Google's planned acquisition of online ad-serving vendor DoubleClick, or seek to impose any privacy protection requirements in return for allowing the US$3.1 billion deal to go through. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) was one of three privacy groups that previously had filed a petition asking the FTC to put a stop to the acquisition unless Google made significant changes to its data privacy policy.

In an interview with Computerworld that was conducted before the FTC announced its decision, Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Washington-based EPIC, contended that the combination of Google and DoubleClick would give the search engine giant "the deepest and broadest profile of Internet users of any company in the world" -- with virtually no legal limits on how it could use that data. Excerpts from the interview follow:

What red flags does Google's planned acquisition of DoubleClick raise from a privacy standpoint?

EPIC has been involved in most of the major privacy campaigns in the United States going back to our founding, and I don't think there has been a campaign that we pursued since then that has been more significant than the effort to block this deal. It speaks directly to whether the Federal Trade Commission can meaningfully protect consumer privacy in the online world. I don't think there is any doubt that Google being the Internet giant search company that it is, and DoubleClick being the leading banner advertising company that it is, this is the single biggest privacy meltdown that the Internet is currently facing.

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