California asked to look into Yahoo-Google dealCalifornia assemblyman Joel Anderson, R.-San Diego, has penned a letter to the state's attorney general, Jerry Brown, asking the former Governor Moonbeam to launch an investigation into the search advertising deal between Yahoo and Google. Anderson took credit for convincing the monolithic Mountain View search giant to add a link to the company's privacy policy on its homepage. Now he's pointing out that by controlling 90 percent or more of the search advertising market, Google is in a position to unilaterally set the terms of consumer privacy as it relates to search ads. “We are on the brink of having a national privacy policy — Google’s privacy policy,” Anderson declared in a press release. Yahoo and Google responded to say that we can all trust the two companies to take privacy seriously, honest. Anderson's full letter:
Dear Attorney General Brown: I am writing to urge you to direct your office to take quick and decisive action by launching a formal investigation into the proposed business transaction between Google and Yahoo's search advertising business which would give Google control of 90+% of the search advertising market, making its already dominant position even stronger. Aside from the competitive issues this proposed deal raises, it also highlights the market power that would be concentrated within Google. This power would allow the search giant to unilaterally develop “online privacy policies” related to search and other forms of online advertising. Currently, Google is not entirely transparent about the type of personal data it collects (i.e. search terms, YouTube viewing habits, web browsing habits), how long they keep it, how they “data mine” it across their properties, and how exactly they use the information. Recently, I worked together with privacy organizations and successfully forced Google to reverse its position – in compliance with the California Privacy Protection Act – and link to its privacy policy prominently from its homepage. The struggle to achieve what should have been a simple victory indicates that Google does not value online privacy concerns as much as it purports. At both the federal and state levels, a bi-partisan collection of elected officials and regulators are conducting comprehensive investigations into this proposed business transaction. Most notably, the U.S. Department of Justice has launched an anti-trust investigation that appears wide-ranging based on media reports of subpoenas and other developments. In Congress, both the Senate Commerce and Senate Judiciary Committees have held hearings in the past week, as well as the House Judiciary Committee. Leading privacy advocates like Republican Congressman Joe Barton (TX) and Democrat Senator Herb Kohl (WI) are aggressively questioning the impact of this business deal on consumers, advertisers and the e-commerce marketplace. At his Subcommittee's hearing on Tuesday Chairman Kohl expressed concerns that this deal “will reduce Yahoo to nothing more than the latest satellite in the Google orbit.” Senator Kohl has promised to thoroughly investigate the “privacy implications of this deal.” Your colleagues in other states are also scrutinizing this deal, including Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. Blumenthal stated “on their face, those numbers cry out for an inquiry. If their agreement is a substantial one in its impact on services or costs, it could have a huge impact on competition. It could be hugely anti-competitive.” The impact of such potential market concentration – in both internet search and search advertising – left in the hands of one company, at the very least, warrants rigorous scrutiny. We must ensure that the proper consumer safeguards and transparency are put in place to protect privacy. The ability to “data mine” online behavior in order to find specific consumers interested in specific products is a big part of Google's revenue stream and business plan. If Google is allowed to control over 90% of Internet searches, those data mining capabilities will be unmatched and will soon make it impossible for any competitor to crack Google’s stranglehold on web advertising. We look forward to your prompt response. Respectfully, Joel Anderson California State Assemblyman