Consumer Groups Ask FTC to Block Google AdMob Buy

A pair of consumer advocacy groups have requested publicly that the Federal Trade Commission deny Google’s recent purchase of the mobile ad network AdMob.

In November, Google reached a deal to acquire the fast-growing AdMob, which claims to serve ads on approximately 15,000 mobile Web properties across the world, for $750 million in stock. On Monday (Dec. 28) the Washington, DC-based groups Center for Digital Democracy and Consumer Watchdog issued a joint missive urging the FTC to kill the Google deal based on concerns over anti-trust and consumer privacy issues.

Specifically, the two groups warn that Google may preemptively lock up the mobile ad market before it develops, stifling competition. “Consumers will face higher prices, less innovation and fewer choices,” reads the groups’ letter. Plus, the two organizations fear that Google, which already collects reams of non-personally identifiably data on millions of users’ Web searching habits, will have access to far too much information on consumers when it ultimately incorporates AdMob’s data from the billions of the ad impressions it serves.

“Permitting the expansion of mobile advertising through the combination of these two market leaders without requiring privacy guarantees poses a serious threat to consumers,” reads the letter.

While the current administration in Washington D.C. has demonstrated an inclination toward regulating online advertising, both the Center for Digital Democracy and Consumer Watchdog have a tough argument to make when it comes to Google’s ability to completely own mobile by acquiring a single ad network. For one, spending in mobile media is still relatively tiny; eMarketer predicts that advertisers will spend just $416 million in 2009.

Plus, Google rivals Yahoo and Microsoft have each acquired mobile ad networks over the past several years, and neither has laid claim to dominating the market.