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FTC to Investigate Microsoft, Yahoo Ad Buys

First came the acquisitions feeding frenzy in online advertising. Google got DoubleClick, Yahoo ate up Right Media, and Microsoft gobbled aQuantive. Now it's up to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to make sure nobody got sharked.

Following the requirements of the Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust act, the FTC is conducting a review of Microsoft's $6 billion bid for aQuantive, a Microsoft spokesperson told internetnews.com.

The spokesperson characterized the investigation as "part of the normal regulatory review process" and said Microsoft submitted a routine filing under the federal rules that give regulators authority to review large mergers during 30-day periods.

The investigation differs from the FTC's "second review" or current investigation into Google's acquisition of DoubleClick, according the spokesperson who refused to comment further.

The FTC is also investigating Yahoo's $680 million offer for the final 80 percent of the Right Media Exchange, the Wall Street Journal reported.

FTC spokesman Frank Dorman confirmed the Journal's report. "Can't say there's anything incorrect about it," Dorman told internetnews.com. Yahoo did not return calls requesting comment.

The new investigations follow the FTC's ongoing look at the Google-DoubleClick merger.

As internetnews.com previously reported, sources close to the deal say an FTC review rarely results in blocking a merger. Still, Google isn't "counting its chickens before the government let's they hatch," Google director of AdSense Kim Malone told internetnews.com.

Malone said Google hasn't begun planning how it would integrate DoubleClick.

That hasn't kept third parties from imagining how it might go down for better or for worse.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith publicly complained that Google-DoubleClick will own 80 percent of the market for serving ads to third-party Web publishers after its merger is complete.

And immediately after Google announced its bid, three privacy groups filed a complaint with the FTC. They argued the deal gives Google the ability to "record, analyze, track and profile" the activities of Internet users.

Google said the complaint, "Utterly fails to identify any practice that does not comply with accepted privacy standards." DoubleClick added, "Google would not be able to match its search data to the data collected by DoubleClick, as DoubleClick does not have the right to use its clients' data for such purposes."