FTC approves Google's acquisition of DoubleClick

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has formally approved Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick, according to an announcement by Google this morning. Google announced the deal in April, along with a purchase price of $3.1 billion.

The FTC's investigation focused on antitrust issues, and in its clearance opinion released today, explicitly rejected any current or potential competition concerns. In a 4-1 vote, the commission wrote in its majority statement that "after carefully reviewing the evidence, we have concluded that Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick is unlikely to substantially lessen competition."

Google's announcement also noted several recent acquisitions by their competitors, 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."

This is excellent news for Google, and provides it with a significant expansion of advertising inventory. Not everyone will be so thrilled though, as privacy concerns will no doubt be discussed in the media for some time to come. The reason for this is that Google now has another extremely rich data source to combine with the information it has on user's search histories. Privacy advocates will be very concerned about this. Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said that Google will continue to protect the privacy of users.

When the deal was announced, three privacy watchdog groups asked the FTC to investigate the potential implications on user privacy. But privacy is not an antitrust issue, so it was not relevant to the investigation except in the ways those issues would relate to a reduction in competition.

The deal is still being looked at by the European Commission, which has until April 2 to render a decision. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approved the deal in November.