Google gets green light for ITA flight data buy

Google has got its way with an acquisition that it has been pushing for for a while. 

It was finally given the green light by the Justice Department to finish off its $700 million acquisition of flight-data company ITA Software. Its purchase means it’ll be able to cast its all dominant force in the online search industry, which is estimated to be worth around $80 billion.

The deal took a while to go through because rivals such as Microsoft, Expedia and Kayak – along with smaller companies – feared that Google could use its leadership in the search industry to direct traffic to its own offerings.

They argued that Google could essentially trample on competition because many web travel sites depend on ITA to power searches.

Despite the Justice Department giving the deal the ok, it’s well aware of the concerns. Under the terms of the go-ahead, and in a first for the company, it has had to agree to a range of government conditions which are hoped to prevent anticompetitive behaviour from happening.

An official told the WSJ that the department will monitor the company to ensure that there is nothing about the purchase which will harm competition in the flight search business.

Under the rules, the Justice Department wants Google to carry on  licensing ITA’s service to online airfare search sites for at least five years.

The company has also been ordered to continue to fund, research and make available a next-generation service. This was already something the ITA was working on. It has been ordered to put in place internal firewalls, which the Justice Department hopes will help prevent “unauthorised” use of personal and sensitive customer information.

So just in case Google thought it could sneak under the parapet, it’s been made to agree to a five year monitoring deal, which means that the Justice Department can keep a close eye on what the company is doing, which has somewhat appeased rivals.