AG urged to investigate Yahoo-Google deal

Legal News Line Jul. 30, 2008, 2:00pm

Joel Anderson (R)

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., (Legal Newsline)-A Republican Assemblyman from San Diego is urging state Attorney General Jerry Brown to launch an investigation into the proposed business transaction between Google and Yahoo's search advertising business.

If completed, the deal would give Google control of more than 90 percent of the search engine advertising market, according to state Assemblyman Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon.

"This anti-competitive market power would allow the search giant to unilaterally develop 'online privacy policies' related to search and other forms of online advertising," Anderson said.

Anderson said consumers don't realize what Google tracks and how it uses the data it collects.

"Google is not entirely transparent about the type of personal data it collects like search terms, YouTube viewing habits, Web browsing habits and other online behavior," he said. "Consumers need to know how long they keep data, how the 'data mine' it across their properties and what exactly they use it for."

State attorneys general from Florida, Arkansas and Connecticut have already launched investigations into the consumer impacts. The Justice Department is also scrutinizing the deal. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, 90 percent of the marketplace "cries out for an inquiry."

In his letter to Brown, Anderson urges "quick and decisive action."

Yahoo issued a statement on Tuesday, following the public release of the letter from Anderson to Brown, saying the state assemblyman's concerns were not warranted.

"Both companies have taken important steps in this agreement to ensure that user privacy is protected," the statement said. "Any suggestion that Google and Yahoo are merging vast databases of personal information is simply false."

Google also issued a similar statement, saying the company takes "privacy very seriously" and that it the deal with Yahoo "ensures that personally identifiable information of individual Internet users will not be shares, combined or merged by the companies."

Brown, a Democrat, has not yet responded to the letter.

In 2003, Anderson waged a campaign to have Google comply with California's Privacy Protection Act of 2003.

Eventually, Google agreed to link its privacy policy from its homepage as required by state law.

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