Republican politico takes aim at Google, yet again

Rep. Joe Barton has been taking aim at Google since at least late last year, and now he wants answers to questions about privacy and integration with DoubleClick.

If anyone had any remaining doubts that Rep. Joe Barton has it in for Google, fresh evidence arrived in the mail Wednesday.

The Texas Republican sent a letter to Google on Wednesday with 15 interrogatories, mostly demanding answers about how it will merge its operations and procedures with DoubleClick. As an example, one interrogatory says "please identify the data that will be merged, including, but not limited to, cookie data."

Another demanded information about filtering out cross-side scripting attacks from search results. The letter asks for a response by June 6.

This follows two more letters that Barton sent late last year before the DoubleClick acquisition was complete. (In one, Barton complained that his staff wasn't receiving the royal welcome at the company's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters; that sub-dispute has since been resolved.)

It would be one thing if Barton were a principled privacy advocate who was also assailing Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, and so on. But he's not.

In fact, Barton has a long history of embracing more, not less, surveillance. Bills he voted for include the Real ID Act, the Patriot Act, and a proposal to expand Internet surveillance performed without a court order. He opposed a proposal to disclose federal agencies' data mining to Congress. (Rep. Ron Paul, a true privacy advocate, voted opposite Barton on each of those bills.)

And this is coming from a politician who boasts in his official bio that he, Barton, was the "founding co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus."

Two more explanations for Barton's animus come to mind. One dates back to the Net neutrality wars from three years ago, when he was hoping to rewrite telecommunications laws and Google assailed his proposal as too heavy-handed. Barton opposed extensive Net neutrality regulations and has received millions from like-minded telecommunications companies; Google was on the other side. Google's penchant for hiring Democrats probably hasn't endeared it either.

The last is more worrying, at least from someone who was until recently the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which writes telecommunications law. The explanation is that Barton is eager to closely regulate the data collection and use practices of Internet companies -- but is willing to overlook far more worrisome data collection practices when they're done by the Feds. So much for the traditional conservative idea of a federal government limited in its powers and dedicated to protecting individual rights.

(Disclosure: Declan McCullagh is married to a Google employee.)

 

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