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Republicans Seek Privacy Hearing on Google Deal

A congressional hearing should be held to examine the privacy aspects of Google Inc's plan to buy advertising company DoubleClick, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said on Tuesday.

"Google is an information colossus already, but add on DoubleClick's marketing power and you produce a single commercial entity that can know more about you and me than nearly everybody but mom and the IRS," Rep. Joe Barton of Texas said in a statement, referring to the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service.

The $3.1 billion Google-DoubleClick deal has been under review by the Federal Trade Commission since May. Google, which stores data on the Internet-surfing habits of consumers, wants to buy DoubleClick to increase its clout in tailoring advertisements to consumer activities.

"It seems to me that policymakers should know more about Google's intentions than we do, and a serious hearing to get at the facts looks like a very good idea," Barton said.

A dozen Republican members of the committee sent a letter requesting a hearing to Rep. Bobby Rush, the Illinois Democrat who is chairman of the subcommittee on consumer protection.

Rush, who held an unrelated hearing on Tuesday on legislation to reform the Consumer Product Safety Commission, declined to comment on the letter.

Although a Senate panel held a hearing in September on antitrust aspects of the Google-DoubleClick deal, the Republican House of Representatives members said a closer look at consumer privacy issues was needed.

The privacy implications of the merger "are enormous," the Republicans said in their letter, noting Google and DoubleClick would together have one of the largest search query databases and one of the largest online user-behavior profile databases.

Republicans who signed the letter included former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois; Cliff Stearns of Florida; Mary Bono of California; Vito Fossella of New York; Charles Pickering of Mississippi; and Sue Myrick of North Carolina.

Google's planned DoubleClick acquisition is one of several recent deals consolidating the Web advertising industry.