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House Member Questions Google

A House Republican on Wednesday sent a letter to Google Inc., asking the Internet search company to provide more information about its search practices and targeted advertising.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in the letter he was concerned about the privacy and consumer-protection implications stemming from Google's proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of New York-based DoubleClick, which places and tracks online ads for clients.

He sent a list of 24 detailed questions to Mountain View, Calif.-based Google regarding its data retention and privacy policies and how it uses such information. If the acquisition is approved, Barton wants the same questions answered for DoubleClick.

In the letter, Barton chided Google for initially inviting committee staff to "learn firsthand" its practices and technology, but then rebuffing requested meetings later.

"Your warm initial invitation followed by Google's chilly response to a proposed visit by committee counsels is disconcerting," he wrote.

Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said the company was "surprised" by the letter. Company executives were willing to meet with Barton's staff in California, he said, but were out of town on the proposed dates, which were right after Thanksgiving.

Kovacevich said the company has tried to reschedule and will answer the congressman's questions.

In early November, 12 Republican House members urged Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., chairman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, to hold a hearing on the DoubleClick acquisition's impact on consumer privacy. Rush never held the hearing.

A Senate committee held a hearing in late September on the proposed transaction, at which several senators expressed concern, but not outright opposition to the deal.

Google, which announced the deal in April, has said that it expects regulators to approve the deal before the end of the year.

Shares of Google rose $3.32 to $702.52 in afternoon trading.

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