Google on defensive over Microsoft claims

Google was on the defensive on Capitol Hill yesterday, fending off allegations from its chief rival, Microsoft, that its takeover of DoubleClick had grave antitrust and privacy implications for consumers.

David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google, defended the giant search company's proposed deal with DoubleClick, the online advertising group it is acquiring for $3.1bn, by claiming the takeover would help the "relatively young" online advertising business grow and develop. He also promised that Google was "exploring" ways to create more transparency in its privacy practices and policies.

But Brad Smith, general counsel at Microsoft, said that, with the merger, Google was seeking to "record almost everything you see and do on the internet and use that information to target ads".

"One question is whether this merger will create a whole new meaning to the term 'being googled'," Mr Smith said.

While the Senate committee hearing was sparsely attended by lawmakers, the fact that it was called underlines the kinds of antitrust and privacy challenges Google faces in Washington and from regulators around the world.

Mr Smith put his concerns about the deal in bold terms: the future of the internet would be decided by developments in online advertising, and Google's acquisition would allow "the largest company in online advertising to acquire its most significant competitor".

One privacy expert, Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called on the Federal Trade Commission, the antitrust authority examining the deal, to block the merger or impose "substantial privacy safeguards" on the deal which, he said, represented a "unique and substantial threat to the privacy interests of internet users around the globe".

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