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Google-DoubleClick: Great new antitrust study on why privacy is relevant to this antitrust review

I was very impressed with Ohio State law Professor Peter Swire's insightful analysis of why, in the context of the FTC antitrust review of the Google-DoubleClick merger, privacy harms are relevant to the traditional antitrust analysis.

  • "In brief, privacy harms can reduce consumer welfare, which is a principal goal of modern antitrust analysis. In addition, privacy harms can lead to a reduction in the quality of a good or service, which is a standard category of harm that results from market power. Where these sorts of harms exist, it is a normal part of antitrust analysis to assess such harms and seek to minimize them."
  • "To the extent proponents of the merger seek to justify the merger on efficiency grounds, such as personalization, then privacy harms to consumers should be considered as an offset to the claimed efficiencies."

In my Googleopoly analysis and my Senate Judiciary Subcommittee testimony on the Google-DoubleClick merger, I viewed the massive aggregation of customer clickstream data to be highly anti-competitive as it would create a tipping point and unsurmountable barriers for others to compete.

  • In my eyes, social privacy concerns and antitrust concerns over too much concentration in customer clickstream data are just different sides of the same coin.
  • The FTC is making a mistake by picking heads and not tails, because they are missing the point of what matters the coin itself -- the concentration of customer clickstream data, the fuel for the targetting engine of online advertising.  

As I have said before, the more one learns about this merger, the more concerned one becomes.

  • That is true however, only if one continues to learn, and from what it appears, the FTC investigators from near the beginning were not open to learning about the potential anti-competitive effects but in justifying their initial assessment that Google and DoubleClick don't compete.

If the FTC approves the Google-DoubleClick merger as it appears it will, history will not judge it kindly.

  • My core argument -- that combining the #1 and #2 global networks of Internet viewers, advertisers, publishers and customer clickstream data will create network effects on steroids that will tip the online advertising market to "substantially less competition" -- appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
  • Time will tell...