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Monday, December 28, 2009, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Consumer groups ask FTC to block Google's AdMob deal

Consumer Watchdog and the Center For Digital Democracy have requested that the Federal Trade Commission block Google's $750 million acquisition of AdMob on both anti-trust and privacy issues.

According to a report by TechCrunch, The FTC has already been actively reviewing the AdMob acquisition over the past weeks since Google announced its plans to buy up the mobile advertising.

Apple had started talks to acquire AdMob just weeks before Google announced its deal, ostensibly in an effort to prevent Google from obtaining detailed information about Apple's iPhone App Store.

Other smaller competitors in the fledgling mobile advertising market have also raised concerns that Google could leverage its existing AdSense and DoubleClick programs to effectively monopolize the emerging market for mobile ad placement within third party apps.

Google's $750 million purchase of AdMob is the third-largest acquisition in its history, behind only the $3.2 billion purchase of DoubleClick in 2008 and the $1.65 billion takeover of YouTube in 2006.

Monopolizing mobile ads without privacy protection

The new complaint filed by the consumer groups echoes those concerns, saying the deal would, "substantially lessen competition in the increasingly important mobile organizing market," and that, as it is proposed, "would be harmful to consumers, advertisers and application developers."

However, the complaint goes beyond antitrust issues to note that mobile ads provide deep and significant information to the company managing them, potentially including the user's location and detailed record of their behavioral history, age, ethnicity, gender and other information.

"U.S. consumers currently do not have meaningful safeguards protecting their privacy online, including with behavioral targeting. This is particularly true of the mobile Web where there are no meaningful federal policies to effectively protect privacy," the complaint stated. "Permitting the expansion of mobile advertising through the combination of these two market leaders without requiring privacy guarantees poses a serious threat to consumers."

Managing the news

AdMob has regularly reported aggregated statistics culled from its network of ad views, which has provided reporters with new insight into the rapid increase in the influence of the iPhone as a platform.

Following its planned acquisition by Google, the monthly AdMob report almost entirely ignored any detailed mention of iPhone, which AdMob only noted in passing as having achieved half of all data traffic and a third place 18% of unit sales, to instead detail metrics related to Google's distantly fifth place Android platform, which it said represented an 11% share of data traffic and just 3% of unit sales.