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Google's Schmidt to testify before Congress on Sept. 21

A date has finally been set for Eric Schmidt's appearance before a Senate panel, which will mark the most significant Capitol Hill appearance any Google executive has made in the company's history.

Google has attracted plenty of government scrutiny this year. Kent Walker, Google's general counsel testifying before a Congressional subcommittee in April.
Greg Sandoval/CNET

Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman and former longtime CEO, will testify before Congress on September 21 and is expected to be questioned by lawmakers about the company's business practices.

The date of Schmidt's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee was released today, setting up what will likely be one of the most crucial Capitol Hill showdowns in the company's history.

Google has attracted a lot of unwanted attention in Washington in recent months. Earlier this year, Google lawyer Kent Walker faced tough questions about accusations that the search company profited from online piracy and counterfeiting. Lawmakers have also raised concerns about Google's privacy practices, notably the company's collection of Wi-Fi data from its Street View cars.

In an exclusive story this week, CNET reported that the cars were supposed to collect the locations of Wi-Fi access points, but Google also recorded the street addresses and unique identifiers of computers and other devices using those wireless networks and then made the data publicly available through until a few weeks ago.

The main purpose of Schmidt's appearance will be to answer questions about the company's huge share of the search market and whether the company uses that to stifle competition. In June, Google said that it had received a subpoena from the Federal Trade Commission as part of an investigation into Google's business practices.

Google had offered to send one of its lawyers but subcommittee members specifically requested that either Schmidt or Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page testify. Google has seemed reluctant to show up at some of the congressional hearings in which executives have been invited to appear. In February, members of another Senate Judiciary subcommittee investigating online piracy and counterfeiting were miffed when Google did not appear before them.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said not only was he disappointed that Google didn't show, but he suggested he would use the committee's subpoena power to compel representatives to testify at future hearings on the issue.