The FTC has not yet confirmed Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick. Last week’s town meeting on the subject of behavioral targeting hasn’t changed that. So when I came across as story today entitled “Congress Calls For Hearing On GoogleClick Deal,” I thought that something was really starting to happen over there.
But then the article begins, “Republican Congress members Tuesday called for a hearing into whether Google’s proposed $3.1 billion buyout of DoubleClick would compromise Web users’ privacy.”
Oh. So it’s not all 535 voting members of the US Congress that think there’s something hinky with the world’s largest
data repository search engine purchasing one of the largest online advertising agencies and platforms.
In fact, it’s not even all 250 Republican members of Congress. It’s twelve of them. They’ve written a letter to Rep. Bobby Rush, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, stating:
Google and DoubleClick would have one of the largest search query databases with one of the largest online user behavioral profile databases. The privacy implications of such a merger are enormous and without an in-depth examination, we and the American public will not fully understand what all of those implications may be.
I’m not one to fight Google’s battle for them (since I’m not entirely convinced that those twelve angry [congress]men aren’t right). Google, however, has been eager to fight for themselves, responding that they’ve:
taken a number of industry-leading steps to improve privacy for our users, and the success of the DoubleClick acquisition depends on our retaining our users’ trust. . . . Congress would be best served by taking an industry-wide look at the issue, just as the FTC did at last week’s town hall.
On the one hand, Google’s right: this just isn’t Congress’s job. It’s like the Dept. of Justice telling the FCC what to do about Net Neutrality (oh wait . . . )—except this time, we’re getting our separated powers all in a knot.
With all the “help” they’re getting, will the FTC (and the FCC!) ever get a chance to finally decide for themselves?
UPDATE: The full text of the letter, signed by Reps. Stearns, Hastert, Bono, Whitfield, Pickering, Fossella, Terry, Myrick, Pitts, Radanovich, Burgess and Blackburn, is available in PDF.