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Dog Bites Man

By - December 20, 2007

Emailed to me this AM:

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (December 20, 2007) – Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) today welcomed the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s clearance of its planned acquisition of DoubleClick Inc., a premier provider of display ad serving technology and services. Google announced in April 2007 a definitive agreement to acquire the company for $3.1 billion in cash from San Francisco-based private equity firm Hellman & Friedman along with JMI Equity and management.

“The FTC’s strong support sends a clear message: this acquisition poses no risk to competition and will benefit consumers,” said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. “We hope that the European Commission will soon reach the same conclusion, and we are confident that this deal will deliver more relevant ads for consumers, more choices for advertisers, and more opportunities for website publishers.”

The acquisition was approved earlier this year by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and was recommended for approval by one of three Brazilian regulatory agencies. Google cannot close the acquisition until the European Commission, which is still examining the transaction, grants clearance of the deal.

In its clearance opinion released today, the FTC explicitly rejected any current or potential competition concerns. Google and DoubleClick are complementary businesses and do not compete with each other. Google’s current business primarily involves the selling of text-based ads, while DoubleClick’s core business is delivering and reporting on display ads. DoubleClick does not buy ads, sell ads, or buy or sell advertising space. Rather, it provides technology to enable advertisers and publishers to deliver ads once they have agreed to terms, and to provide advertisers and publishers statistics relating to those ads.

The FTC’s opinion also noted the robust competition in the online ad serving space, and Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick is just one of several recent transactions that underscore this strong competition. In recent months, several major transactions in the online advertising space were announced, including Yahoo’s acquisition of Right Media; AOL’s acquisition of ADTECH AG and TACODA; WPP Group’s acquisition of 24/7 Real Media; and Microsoft’s $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive and acquisition of AdECN Inc.

While the FTC’s opinion reaffirmed the law by noting that privacy concerns played no role in its merger review, Schmidt reiterated the company’s commitment to user privacy.

“For us, privacy does not begin or end with our purchase of DoubleClick,” Schmidt said. “We have been protecting our users’ privacy since our inception, and will continue to innovate in how we safeguard their information and maintain their trust.”

For more, see Danny’s coverage here. Apparently the FTC gives a shout out to the Database of Intentions. Cool!

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More GoogleClick News: Influential Congressman (Very Publicly) Asks a TON of Interesting Questions

By - December 13, 2007

Dbclk-2

From Cnet/Declan’s blog:

A top Republican in the House of Representatives is demanding that Google answer a barrage of questions about privacy, some of which are related to the company’s proposed purchase of the DoubleClick advertising firm.

Rep. Joe Barton, who has positioned himself as a privacy advocate and previously criticized the merger last month, complained in a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt that the company had initially agreed to let his aides visit the so-called Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. but then didn’t confirm a date. Barton is the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has Internet regulation as one of its responsibilities.

Interesting to see what Barton wants to know about, his letter to Google outlining his requests about the company’s information use and technology is very, very extensive. Snippets:

To help us better understand the privacy and consumer protection implications of this transaction, please respond to the following questions:

1. Please describe Google’s retention policy with respect to the following data. Include in your response a description of the type of data retained (for example, URL, Internet Protocol [IP] address, date, time of connectivity); the length of time the data is retained; where the data is retained; who has access to the retained data; and how the data is removed, deleted, or anonymized once the retention period lapses.

a. Search queries on Google search;

b. Search queries on Google maps;

c. Search queries on Google news;

d. Search queries on Google images;

e. Email sent, received, or drafted on Gmail;

f. Information or data collected or retained through a website’s use of Google Analytics;

g. Information or data collected or retained from an individual’s use of Google Desktop Search, including the Google Desktop Search feature, Search Across Computers;

h. Google Maps for Mobile;

i. Google Web History Program for registered Google users/Google users with sign-in accounts;

j. Information or data collected or retained from an individual’s use of Picasa;

k. Information or data collected or retained from an individual’s use of Calendar;

l. Cookies.

2. Please explain how Google uses the information or data described in Question 1(a) – (l), including, but not limited to, the following uses: perfecting Google’s search algorithm; operating Google’s advertising programs such as AdWords and AdSense; and research or analysis of user activity on www.google.com.

… 5. In particular, please explain whether Google Maps directs advertisements to IP addresses based on that user’s Google Maps search query history.

6. Please explain how and why information is combined or shared across platforms when consumers opt-in for personalized services and whether Google first requires consent prior to such information-sharing. (For instance, whether search query data is shared with or linked to a user’s Gmail account.)

…. 11. In Google’s privacy policy, “personal information” is defined as “information that you provide to us which personally identifies you, such as your name, email address, or billing information, or other data which can be reasonably linked to such information by Google.”

a. Please describe how Google interprets “reasonably linked.”

b. Please explain in what circumstances Google links information

such that an individual can be identified.

c. Please explain whether Google considers an IP address to be “personal information.”

d. Please explain whether technology exists to personally identify or determine the personal characteristics, including, but not limited to, name, email address, physical address or location, age, gender, or ethnicity of an Internet user based on that user’s IP address.

e. Please explain whether Google is capable of identifying or determining personal characteristics, including, but not limited to, name, email address, physical address or location, age, gender, or ethnicity of an Internet user based on that user’s IP address.

…. 20. If the merger of Google and DoubleClick is approved, please describe what use Google plans to make of the data retained and collected by DoubleClick (for example, data from DoubleClick’s tracking cookies or DoubleClick click-stream data), and whether Google plans to combine or merge DoubleClick’s data with data Google retains from individual search queries and other user activity on www.google.com.

a. If Google does not intend to merge or combine the data Google retains with the information or data retained or collected by DoubleClick, please describe the efficiencies of the Google-DoubleClick merger. (emphasis mine) b. If Google does not intend to merge or combine the data Google retains with the information or data retained or collected by DoubleClick, please explain how the information will be segregated.

…24. The House passed the Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass (SPY ACT) in the current and prior two Congresses. The SPY ACT, H.R. 964, sponsored by Representatives Mary Bono and Adolphus Towns, mandates an opt-in privacy regime by prohibiting the collection of personal information from a computer without a user’s notice and consent prior to the execution of any information collection program. H.R. 964 also demands that a user be able to easily remove or disable the information collection program. Please explain whether Google’s applications are subject to H.R. 964′s consent requirements. If the answer is no, please explain why these programs, which collect personal information, are not subject to the consent regime established by H.R. 964.

I for one and very, very happy Rep. Barton has laid this out, and very eager to see what response will be given.

Update: Henry speculates that this may be the work of MSFT.

Ask Eraser Launches

By - December 11, 2007

From SEL:

Ask.com has launched AskEraser, giving searchers the ability to search anonymously. Ask.com told us about this tool back in July, and six months later, it’s now live for all searchers to use.

Google Wins Key Fair Use Suit

By - December 04, 2007

Google has proven willing to use its lawyesr when needed, in this case involving Perfect Ten, I am happy with the result. Not because I’m all about thumbnails of nudes, though I find nothing wrong with ‘em, but because anything that strengthens fair use is a good thing, I think.

Facebook: New Ad Plan

By - November 30, 2007

Facebook has released the details of its new approach to user control:

Under the changes outlined late Thursday, Facebook’s 55 million users will be given greater control over whether they want to participate in a three-week-old program that circulates potentially sensitive information about their online purchases and other activities.

Facebook provided two different opportunities to block the details from being shared, but many users said they never saw the “opt-out” notices before they disappeared from the screen.

With the reforms, Facebook promised its users will now have to give their explicit consent, or “opt-in,” before any information is passed along.

More coverage in the Times.

No Surprise: Google Will Apply for 700Mhz Auction

By -

From the release (more here):

“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,”

said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. “Consumers deserve more

competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world.

No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this

auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than

ever before in how they access the Internet.”

Facebook Calls a Privacy Huddle

By - November 29, 2007

Via Salon, Bizweek reports:

In the wake of mounting criticism, Facebook executives are discussing changes to a controversial advertising tool that publicizes users’ Web activities outside of the popular social network. Alterations to the recently introduced Beacon system could be announced as early as Nov. 29, BusinessWeek.com has learned.