Microsoft/Yahoo: Regulators in U.S. and EU Must Ask–How will the Deal Really Protect Privacy, Serve Consumers & Promote Competition

The Center for Digital Democracy will ask regulators (in both the U.S. and EU) to closely– and skeptically– examine the Microsoft/Yahoo deal, including a thorough analysis of the proposed data collection, privacy and online ad-related business practices.  This agreement basically merges the Microsoft and Yahoo search platforms.  Instead of competing ad sales teams for “premium” search, Yahoo becomes the “exclusive” agent; the Bing search platform serves both MSN and Yahoo.  There are questions that must be answered regarding the collection and sharing of consumer data by the two companies.  We are concerned that this agreement is merely an initial step in what will eventually be the complete integration of Microsoft and Yahoo (including mobile, display, ad exchanges, research and development, etc.).  Both Microsoft and Yahoo understand that to compete in today’s online advertising marketplace, search and display marketing (including data collection, analysis, and targeting) must be closely linked.

What we are now witnessing is the emergence of a global digital advertising duopoly:  Google and Microsoft/Yahoo. While the rationale for the deal is to provide some much needed competition to Google (and income for Yahoo), the further consolidation of the global digital advertising system should be a concern to Internet users, privacy advocates, online marketers, and competition regulators.  [Regulators in both the U.S. and the EU helped set the stage for this Microsoft/Yahoo deal when they approved without conditions Google’s takeover of DoubleClick –which CDD and others opposed].

Regulators will have to demonstrate to both consumers and search advertisers that they will actually benefit from this proposed deal:  will it really reduce the cost of search ads, bring tangible financial gains to consumers, and truly protect our privacy?

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

Leave a Reply