The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and Consumer Watchdog have asked the Federal Trade Commission to deny Google's proposed $750 million buy of mobile marketing company Ad Mob.
"The FTC should conduct the appropriate investigation, block the proposed Google/AdMob deal, and also address the privacy issues," said CDD Executive Director Jeff Chester.
In a letter to the FTC , the groups said that if the deal is allowed, it must have strong privacy guarantees.
"U.S. consumers currently do not have meaningful safeguards protecting their privacy online, including with behavioral targeting, the groups wrote to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "This is particularly true of the mobile Web where there are no meaningful federal policies to effectively protect privacy. Permitting the expansion of mobile advertising through the combination of these two market leaders without requiring privacy guarantees poses a serious threat to consumers"
"We're confident that the FTC will conclude that the rapidly growing mobile advertising space will remain highly competitive after this deal closes," Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich told B&C/. "There are more than a dozen mobile ad networks and this deal is similar to mobile advertising acquisitions that AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo have made in the past two years."
Kovacevich says Google has a track record of strong privacy protection, and says it will "apply the same approach to privacy following this acquisition." But he also says that the FTC has already ruled--in the Google-DoubleClick deal, that "the law does not allow privacy issues to factor into competition reviews."
In a recent blog posting updating the deal, Google product manager Paul Feng said that the FTC has asked for more information from the companies, which suggests that it is eyeing the deal closely. Last week, the commission issued a "second request" for information, which Feng conceded meant don't look for the deal to close quickly.
If the FCC's broadband under Chairman Julius Genachowski is correct that video media and the Internet are merging, and that mobile broadband will be a huge player going forward, the online advertising space could be a huge growth opportunity.