Thursday, May 3, 2007 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Privacy and the Google-DoubleClick acquisition

Opponents of the proposed acquisition of DoubleClick by Google are raising privacy as one of their primary concerns. Indeed, shortly after the acquisition was announced, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and several other public interest groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to investigate how Google manages personal information and to block the acquisition unless the parties adopt a number of new information practices. The complaint alleges that “the increasing collection of personal information of Internet users by Internet advertisers poses far-reaching privacy concerns,” and that the conduct of Google and DoubleClick “has injured consumers throughout the United States by invading their privacy.” It would be nice to have some evidence for such a sweeping assertion, but the complaint provides none, perhaps because such evidence is difficult to find.

A few years ago, Paul Rubin (PFF adjunct fellow and professor of economics and law at Emory) and I investigated the Internet advertising market in a monograph titled Privacy and the Commercial Use of Personal Information. We found that:

We need to remember that the Internet is built on the free flow of information, and that this has great benefits for consumers. Proposals to interfere with that information flow, whether by interfering with a merger or otherwise, should be subject to careful scrutiny and implemented only if there is solid evidence that their benefits are greater than their costs.

posted by Tom Lenard @ 12:37 PM | Privacy