September 27, 2007 3:31 PM PDT
On Capitol Hill, Google and Microsoft spar over DoubleClick
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Smith, who admitted at the start that his company was not exactly a disinterested party, also endured some questioning about Microsoft's practices. Hatch asked him what the company plans to do with the data it will have access to through its purchase of Aquantive, and the Utah senator also questioned why Microsoft was so concerned about Google's buy, given its similarities to the Aquantive deal.
"What is the antitrust problem?" Hatch asked Smith. "Why not just (create) a better product? Have you not just purchased a DoubleClick competitor?"
Smith said: "If we believed this was a market where better technology or better value by itself could carry the day, I wouldn't have come here today. But that's not the market we're dealing with."
The only other senator to show up at the hearing was Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). In a roughly five-minute appearance, he said he had met personally with Google CEO Eric Schmidt and asked for his commitment that the post-merger company would protect privacy. Before exiting the hearing room, Schumer said he was encouraged by a follow-up letter from Schmidt outlining the steps Google plans to take in the privacy realm--and by Schmidt's assertions that the number of New York-based jobs would grow following the merger.
Google's representations about its plans to protect privacy still raise numerous questions and demand more details, Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the politicians.
The FTC needs to set in a legally binding format "enforceable privacy standards to make sure information being collected is not being misused," Rotenberg said. "Google has said in various ways it shares that goal and is prepared to do that...this is a unique opportunity to get this in writing."
EPIC and two other consumer advocacy groups have filed a joint complaint with the FTC, arguing that Google hasn't been forthcoming enough about its post-merger data collection and storage plans and requesting a public privacy plan.
Both Kohl and Hatch said it's important to assess the potential privacy implications of the Google-DoubleClick transaction and indicated plans to continue examining the issue.
The congressional audience could end up playing a role in whether the deal is cleared if the subcommittee ultimately issues any formal recommendations to the FTC or Justice Department about where to come out on their reviews. But Kohl said he hadn't yet decided whether the committee will take that step, as it's still in the information-gathering stage.
Before Kohl adjourned Thursday's hearing, he remarked, "I'm sure there will be additional rounds before this heavyweight fight is settled."
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