Google Chief Schmidt May Be Called Before Congress, Barton Says

Google Inc.’s data collection practices may draw scrutiny from the next Congress, as lawmakers consider questioning Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt, U.S. Representative Joe Barton said.

“The Google thing is very troubling,” Barton, of Texas, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in an interview on the C-Span television show “The Communicators.” The network today released a recording of the program, which is scheduled to be aired Nov. 6 and 8.

Google said automobiles, equipped with cameras to collect photographs for its Street View product, captured personal data from unsecured household wireless networks. The Federal Trade Commission last month ended its investigation of the practice after the company said it will improve privacy safeguards.

“There appears to have been a conscious effort to collect information,” said Barton, who is among several lawmakers vying to become chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee after Republican won control of the House in the Nov. 2 elections.

“Now, Google has said it was inadvertent,’;’ Barton said. ‘‘But it wasn’t just kind of accidentally gathered.”

Google “will continue to work with the authorities to determine the best way forward, as well as to answer their further questions and concerns,” Christine Chen, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Asked if chief executives from companies such as Mountain View, California-based Google and Facebook Inc., led by founder Mark Zuckerberg, would be called before the Commerce Committee, Barton replied, “You could almost guarantee that.”

Safeguarding Data

Facebook in an Oct. 29 letter told Barton and Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, it had taken steps to safeguard users’ data. The letter followed reports the Palo Alto, California-based company had sent information about users to marketers. Andrew Noyes, Facebook’s Washington-based spokesman, declined to comment.

President Hoover is alleged to have said, the worst thing about capitalism is the capitalists,” Barton said. “Republicans in the majority in the House have a responsibility to the country to not only keep an eye on the Obama administration, we also have to make sure that the private sector plays by the rules.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net.

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