Google Inc. took control of online ad tracker DoubleClick Inc. Tuesday just hours after European regulators cleared Google’s $3.1 billion bid for the company.
The European Union said the deal, announced 11 months ago, won’t curb competition in the online advertising arena.
United States regulators cleared it in December. Approval from the EU was the last hurdle before the deal could conclude.
Regulators dismissed objections from rivals Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and advertisers that Google would gain too much control over online advertising prices if it owned DoubleClick.
Unable to topple Google on its own, Microsoft is trying to force slumping rival Yahoo Inc. into a shotgun marriage, with a $44.6 billion wager that the two companies together will have a better chance of tackling the Internet search leader.
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said combining with DoubleClick would allow Google to more quickly bring to market advances in technology and infrastructure that would dramatically improve digital media and better target advertising to users.
The EU’s antitrust authority said its decision was based exclusively on the economic aspects of the deal and had no bearing on the companies’ obligations under EU rules regarding personal privacy and processing of personal data.
A separate probe by data privacy regulators on search engines’ privacy policies is due to wrap up by April.
European consumer group BEUC said it was disappointed the European Commission had not tackled worries about how Google collects and uses the personal information it amasses.
But the group said it was hopeful Google and DoubleClick would set a good example and “rigorously apply” EU rules.
Privacy advocates at the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, D.C., said EU regulators’ failure to impose safeguards had “helped strengthen a growing digital colossus that will now be in a dominant position to shape much of the global future of the Internet.”
The European Commission, however, said it found no proof Google and DoubleClick would be able to marginalize competitors because Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL provided “credible” alternatives for placing ads on Web sites.
Google and DoubleClick are not currently rivals, it said, and Google’s purchase of even a potential competitor would not have an adverse impact on competition in the online ad market.
New York-based DoubleClick helps its customers place and track online advertising, including ads alongside search results, which Google — more than its nearest search competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft — has turned into a lucrative business.
DoubleClick places ads on Web pages that targeted consumers are likely to use, generating money for smaller publishers and lesser-visited pages.