Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. hope that by joining forces, they can tilt the balance of power in internet search away from Google Inc. First, however, Yahoo and Microsoft have to convince regulators that their plan won’t hurt online advertisers and consumers, reports the Associated Press. As the U.S. Justice Department reviews the proposed partnership, approval figures to hinge on this question: Will the online ad market be healthier if Google’s dominance is challenged by a single, more muscular rival instead of two smaller foes? European regulators are also expected to review the deal, and Microsoft and Yahoo are bracing for the probes to extend into early next year, with the outcome far from certain. A decade ago, Microsoft’s stranglehold on PC software triggered an antitrust case that led regulators to conclude the company had abused its control over PC operating systems. Now, Google has emerged as the industry’s fearsome giant–a transformation underscored by the Justice Department’s decision to block Google’s proposed deal with Yahoo last year. Even if Google doesn’t object to the Microsoft-Yahoo alliance, the agreement merits an examination of how the two companies intend to share the data they gather about Web surfers, said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy watchdog group. "This will be a litmus test for the Obama administration on whether they incorporate privacy into antitrust review," Chester said…

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