New complaints about Google’s ad targeting capabilities may compound the company’s existing legal challenges in Europe. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Oracle is lobbying EU regulators to add more fuel to the existing antitrust fires Google is trying to extinguish.
According to the report:
Software giant Oracle Corp. said it briefed European antitrust regulators late last year on the change, arguing it will make it harder for other companies to compete by enabling Google to even more accurately target ads to users.
Oracle is also involved in an ongoing US lawsuit against Google. The company claims a copyright on Java APIs that Google has used in Android. The case has gone up and down on appeal with Google winning the most recent round on “fair use” grounds and Oracle promising to appeal again.
The issue behind Oracle’s complaint in the EU stems from Google’s ability to combine user data across its various properties on the deskop and mobile. In a related move, late last week Google announced that Google account data would now be available for ad targeting on YouTube.
Last June Google introduced “My Activity” and “Ads Personalization.” My Activity gives users a holistic view of their search and browsing histories. Ads Personalization is opt-in and promises more relevant ads. Users are prompted to opt-in; the functionality is turned off by default.
Some of the critics quoted in the Journal article argue not that Google is violating EU privacy rules, that’s a separate discussion, but that its data-combining capabilities give the company an unfair competitive advantage. Oracle itself has formidable data assets and ad targeting capabilities.
In the US, Google faces an FTC complaint (.pdf) on similar grounds. Filed in December, the complaint was generated by Consumer Watchdog and the Privacy Rights Clearing House over Google’s data combining and privacy practices:
Google’s efforts to combine data sets for better targeting is partly a response to the competitive challenge of Facebook and its audience targeting capabilities.
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