Consumer groups in the US have stepped up pressure on regulator the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prevent Google from acquiring mobile advertising firm AdMob, arguing that the deal would lessen competition and negatively affect consumers, advertisers and application developers.
In a letter to the FTC yesterday, the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and Consumer Watchdog also argued that a combined Google/AdMob would raise “substantial privacy concerns that must be addressed by the Commission”.
“US consumers currently do not have meaningful safeguards protecting their privacy online, including with behavioural targeting. This is particularly true of the mobile web where there are no meaningful federal policies to effectively protect privacy,” the letter noted.
“Permitting the expansion of mobile advertising through the combination of these two market leaders without requiring privacy guarantees poses a serious threat to consumers.”
The letter continues by arguing that with Google planning to sell its own smartphone next year, data about competing smartphone users and apps collected through the Google/AdMob network could give it an unfair advantage in the market.
“Consumer Watchdog and CDD believe that instead of acquiring dominance in this
increasingly important market through legitimate competition and innovation, Google is buying its way to a preeminent position in the mobile advertising sector, diminishing competition to the detriment of consumers,” read the letter.
With Google rising to pre-eminence in the mobile advertising market and a concomitant fall in competition, not only would consumer privacy suffer but advertisers could be forced to pay higher prices and “applications developers’ earnings will depend completely on Google’s whim”, the groups argued.