Is Google-DoubleClick a Monopoly?

The US government is increasingly

toothless when it comes to regulating monopolies, or preventing their formation.

So Google doesn’t

have much to worry about from the Federal Trade Commission’s inevitable

decision to investigate its acqiusition of DoubleClick. The only time that mergers

get blocked these days, it seems, is when there’s ex ante legislation

banning them, as in the Sirius-XM deal.

Should the US be worried about Google-DoubleClick? That’s a very different

question, and I think the answer is yes – although maybe not to the point

of banning it altogether. The key monopoly here is the one on information about

users’ web-browsing habits: what they search for, what sites they visit, what

ads they click on. That information is hugely valuable to Google, and gives

it a serious competitive edge. And it’s going to be very hard for any of Google’s

competitors to compete with it in terms of the quality of their databases of

such information.

On the other hand, it’s not clear that the DoubleClick aquisition greatly strengthens

Google’s hand, since, as Catherine Holahan reports, "DoubleClick has stressed

that the Web surfing data belongs to its advertiser and publisher clients—and

thus cannot be turned over to Google". So long as Google signs some kind

of consent agreement with the FTC saying that it won’t incorporate DoubleClick’s

web surfing data into its existing user-behavior database, it makes sense to

allow this merger to happen.

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