Google given green light to purchase ITA, albeit with certain restrictions

Back in July of 2010, Google announced its plans to purchase ITA software for $700 million dollars. The company provides flight data to airlines, travel agencies, and other travel related systems, and Google hoped to integrate this information into their search results to better compete with sites like Bing or, as some people believe, to help make Bing less attractive by not selling the data to Microsoft for use in their search engine.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that they may probe Google for antitrust violations but were waiting to hear from the Justice Department. Today, the Justice Department has given their blessings on the purchase but has established several requirements that help protect competition within the marketplace. Amongst the requirements are:

  • Continue to fund research and development of that product at least at similar levels to what ITA has invested in recent years.
  • Continue to license ITA’s QPX software to airfare websites on commercially reasonable terms.
  • Further develop and offer ITA’s next generation InstaSearch product to travel websites.
  • Implement firewall restrictions within the company that prevent unauthorized use of competitively sensitive information and data gathered from ITA’s customers
  • Prohibited from entering into agreements with airlines that would inappropriately restrict the airlines’ right to share seat and booking class information with Google’s competitors.
  • Provide for a formal reporting mechanism for complainants if Google acts in an unfair manner.

While most of these requirements seem fair and equitable, some make little sense. For example, what is meant by “firewall restrictions?” It seems that the DOJ is requiring Google to keep all customer data from the ITA sale completely separate from their other businesses, something that sounds a bit outlandish.

The DOJ is currently requesting comments on the decision for the next 60 days. When it is formally approved, the agreement will last for five years.

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> It seems that the DOJ is requiring Google to keep all customer data from the ITA sale completely separate from their other businesses, something that sounds a bit outlandish

Not really. For one, Microsoft doesn't even share customer data between its own divisions. I've worked for them for a period of just over a year (after an acquisition), and the sense I got from them is that they're absolutely terrified of having customer data misused.

The (well-documented) competitiveness that exists between divisions also plays into this--if you (as a customer) were dealing with one group, and there was a data breach due to another group, you'd naturally blame the group you're dealing with (and then MS as a whole). So they're rather agressively protective.

I've never got the sense that Google ever had much concern about protecting customer's data--and why should anyone expect any different from an advertising company?

Hmm.. seems like an odd exposure for Google.. I would have rather seen them partner on a solution rather than acquisition.

either way, post 911 flying in US sucks balls and reservation system is the scam of the century.. maybe google can fix at least that part

blahism said,
Hmm.. seems like an odd exposure for Google.. I would have rather seen them partner on a solution rather than acquisition.

either way, post 911 flying in US sucks balls and reservation system is the scam of the century.. maybe google can fix at least that part

I agree, I don't know much about the acquisition but it seem most the benefit for Google is gone under these terms.

They're probably already assembling their crack team of lawyers to argue that Bing can't be considered an "airfare website."

i know it's not fact and just what some people said but still way scary to think about. it makes me think about when big oil companies buyout smaller green companies then make all of their research dissappear.

"and Google hoped to integrate this information into their search results to better compete with sites like Bing or, as some people believe, to help make Bing less attractive by not selling the data to Microsoft for use in their search engine."