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Google's data collection may get new Congress' attention

November 8, 2010 |  4:44 pm

Google may face increased scrutiny from Republican lawmakers in the next Congress.

The Internet search giant's data collection practices have already gotten the attention of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which deals with telecommunications policy and may tackle the thorny issue of consumer privacy on the Web. Barton is one of several GOP lawmakers competing to become chairman of the committee after his party won control of the House in the Nov. 2 elections.

"The Google thing is very troubling," Barton said during an interview on the C-Span show "The Communicators."

Barton was speaking of Google's capturing personal data from unsecured wireless networks while operating a fleet of vehicles for its Street View service. Google has said repeatedly that the data collection was inadvertent. Barton disagreed.

"In that case, there appears to have been a conscious effort to collect information," he said. "It wasn't just kind of accidentally gathered."

Barton said he would consider investigating Google if he became chairman of the committee.

The Federal Trade Commission came under fire from privacy watchdogs last month after it ended an inquiry into the matter without punishing Google. One Republican lobbyist said he expected the House to investigate that decision, giving Republicans the chance to probe Google and FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who was appointed by the Obama administration.

-- Jessica Guynn

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