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Saturday, November 24, 2007


Google is after DoubleClick as an acquisition for two reasons according to Business Week magazine: One, for banner advertising, videos and other display ads; Two, to keep DC out of the hands of one of their biggest search engine competitors, Microsoft. But the privacy community is taking legal action against the acquisition, not due to the loss of competitiveness, as would be signified by addressing the Clayton Antitrust Act, but as a matter of the loss of privacy. The general consensus of that group is that "[t]he combination of DoubleClick's Internet surfing history generated through consumers' pattern of clicking on specific advertisements, coupled with Google's database of consumers' past searches, will result in the creation of "super-profiles," which will make up the world's single largest repository of both personally and non-personally identifiable information." This is a quote from the litigation which was taken from a letter to the FTC from the New York State Consumer Protection Board. Further apprehension by the board cited the possibility of our sensitive data being released to third-parties, and, of course, the chance of data breaches. Google keeps the record of your Web searches for 18 to 24 months, and also has private information such as name, address, phone number, lifestyles, employment, credit card number and card verification code. Privacy concerns are that, although Google isn’t selling personal data now that could change in a heartbeat, particularly by acquiring DoubleClick with their consumer private information. Back in late 1999, DC acquired a junk mail database company by the name of Abacus with names and personal data from 62 million households with plans to merge that data with DC’s 100 million private Internet profiles. The whole idea tanked when privacy advocates went postal, even the junk mail community. Eventually Abacus was sold to Epsilon, a high-tech company with data on 250 million consumers including demographics and lifestyles. Epsilon is owned by Alliance Data Systems. Whether or not there was actually any transfer of data from Abacus for merging to DoubleClick will probably never be known. This does point out one significant deficiency in laws like the Clayton antitrust Act. When they were passed, there was no concept of the magnitude of the current information revolution, nor its potential nemesis, identity theft. With today's law, or even that which is in the making, there is no solution to the problem. However, the identity crisis could be solved tomorrow with the right kind of legislation, and that would be to grant consumers control over their names and personal data, and compensate them when it is used. If you need more reason why this is a bad merger, here’s something else straight from the lawsuit. It is alleged that “Google fails to follow generally accepted privacy practices such as the OECD Privacy Guidelines.” The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), an international group established in 1961 to promote the protection of privacy and personal data, is highly respected throughout the world.

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