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Google CEO: Privacy Concerns Won't Hinder DoubleClick Deal

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said Wednesday that U.S. regulatory approval of his company's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick will not be hindered by possible concerns over privacy.

"We're quite convinced that the proposed merger meets all of the appropriate U.S. laws and is ultimately very good for consumers and for advertisers and publishers," Schmidt said at a press conference.

Google, the world's No. 1 Internet search engine company, announced its plan to buy New York-based DoubleClick Inc. last month in a $3.1 billion acquisition that privacy advocates have urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

DoubleClick helps its customers place and track online advertising, including search ads, which Google - more than its nearest search competitors Yahoo and Microsoft - has turned into an extremely lucrative business.

Google confirmed Tuesday that the FTC is conducting an antitrust review of the deal. Typically, antitrust reviews focus on monopoly concerns, such as whether the combined company will be able to raise prices without fear of competition. But there is precedent for them to address privacy worries, analysts say.

Schmidt said that Google, when considering the acquisition, "looked very carefully" at privacy and other issues that would come under legal review "because we knew competitors would raise those issues, as indeed they have."

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google is "not concerned that the choice of the FTC brings in some new issue that we had not thought about," Schmidt said.

Earlier this month, Schmidt predicted Google would clear all the necessary regulatory hurdles to complete the acquisition by the end of 2007. He reiterated that view Wednesday, saying, "we're hoping to close later this year."

Schmidt was in South Korea to participate in the Seoul Digital Forum 2007, a three-day gathering of technology and media industry leaders organized by South Korean TV network SBS.

Several consumer advocacy groups, led by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, urged the FTC to investigate the privacy implications of Google's acquisition of DoubleClick.

The groups said in their April 20 complaint that the two companies, when combined, would have access to an unprecedented amount of data on consumers' Web usage and Internet search habits.

Regarding other possible acquisitions, Schmidt said Google is "always open" to the idea, though added that he had nothing specific to announce.

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