Privacy group targets Google-DoubleClick deal


WASHINGTON -- A consumer group asked the Federal Trade Commission Friday to investigate and block Google Inc.'s proposed $3.1 billion purchase of online advertising firm DoubleClick Inc. if the companies don't improve consumer privacy protections.

The complaint, filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), alleges that Google and New York-based DoubleClick collect exhaustive personal information on consumers using the Internet but don't comply with government and industry privacy standards.

Google's acquisition of privately held DoubleClick "will give one company access to more information about the Internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world," the complaint from the Washington-based group said. "Moreover, Google will operate with virtually no legal obligation to ensure the privacy, security and accuracy of the personal data that it collects."

The complaint cites published reports that claim Google plans to combine its data with DoubleClick's and would then be able to track an individual's Internet searches and Web site visits.

DoubleClick said Google would not have access to the data it collects on consumers who view its online ads. That data belongs to its clients, DoubleClick said in a prepared statement out Friday.

A Google spokesman was not able to immediately comment on the complaint.

The Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group joined EPIC's complaint, which asks the FTC to order Mountain View, Calif.-based Google to take several steps before the merger can be approved. The requested steps include instituting a "meaningful data destruction policy" and allowing consumers to access any data the company has about them.

The FTC investigates allegations of unfair or deceptive business practices, and along with the Justice Department, reviews proposed mergers and acquisitions to address antitrust concerns.

Investors seemed to shrug off the complaint. Shares of Google were up $12.15, or 2.6%, in midday trading to $483.77 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.