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EU Clears Google-DoubleClick Merger

As had been widely anticipated, the European Commission has cleared the proposed merger of Google and the online advertising company DoubleClick, saying that its investigation of the deal found that it would likely have no harmful impact on consumers—at least as far as its impact on the ad serving or online advertising markets are concerned.

The decision removed that last obstacle to Google’s $3.1 billion merger with DoubleClick, announced almost a year ago. Although both companies are based in the U.S., their presence in international markets made the merger subject to EU approval if the combined entity wanted to do business in the European Union. The U.S. Department of Justice cleared the way for the merger in December, finding that the combination would not inhibit competition in the online advertising market.

EU regulators were quick to point out out their investigation focused solely on the economic impacts of the merger, and did not attempt to analyze or address concerns over consumer protection and privacy rights in regard to the combined entity. Consumer advocates and privacy rights supporters have noted that both Google and DoubleClick compile extensive profiles of consumers’ and users’ online activities; by pooling those data sources, the combined companies might be able to assemble revealing dossiers on individual Internet users, leading to potential privacy violations if that information were to be misappropriated or misused. EU privacy regulators are conducting a separate investigation as to whether Google’s and DoubleClick’s data retention policies comply with EU law.

In a statement, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said: “With DoubleClick, Google now has the leading display ad platform, which will enable us to rapidly bring to market advances in technology and infrastructure that will dramatically improve the effectiveness, measurability, and performance of digital media for publishers, advertisers and agencies, while improving the relevance of advertising for users.”

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