The proposed acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick by Google, the Internet search giant, raises a host of privacy concerns that make the merger more than a mere competition case, legal experts have said.

The concentration of consumer data is not only a competition issue but also raises significant privacy concerns, according to participants at a round table organised by Pappas & Associates, a Brussels law firm, on 10 January.

Google is by far the most-used search engine in the EU and throughout the world. But while other Internet search engines like allow users to delete personal information, Google does not propose such features, raising concerns about the protection of Internet users' personal data.

The way search engines use such data will be the subject of an opinion to be published in February by the Article 29 Working Group which brings togheter the national Data Protection Authorities. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), the EU advisory body, has limited itself to saying that more transparency was needed in dealing with personal data collected by search engines.

Although debate over privacy concerns is becoming increasingly heated in Brussels circles, the average European citizen does not seem particularly concerned by the issue of data protection, surveys show.