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Google’s Top Execs Refuse To Testify At Senate Hearing

By , USA TODAY

Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 11:33 am

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Senators Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Michael Lee, R-Utah, won’t take ‘no’ as an acceptable answer from Google’s Eric Schmidt and Larry Page.

Google’s top executives have flatly refused to appear at a hearing by the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee about business practices in the search industry, says Lee.

Instead, the search giant has assigned Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond to show up. The hearing is slated for later this summer, before the Senate’s August recess.

The executives’ refusal is not sitting well with the esteemed senators. Kohl and Lee have sent a letter to Schmidt and Page formally asking one of them to appear in person

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to supply testimony and answer their questions.

“Google is the pre-eminent provider of Internet search, and a hearing on this important topic would be incomplete without the direct perspective and views from one of Google’s top two executives,” the letter states. “We strongly prefer to have one of you as the witness representing Google at the hearing, which will address fundamental questions of business operations rather merely legal issues.”

Lee – the ranking member of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights – was miffed enough to issue a separate statement of his own.

“I’m very disappointed in Google’s response to the request to have Larry Page or Eric Schmidt testify at our subcommittee hearing,” says Lee. “I’m committed to work with Senator Kohl and others on the committee to ensure we have the opportunity to investigate these issues thoroughly and receive adequate responses from Google.”

The non-profit advocacy group Consumer Watchdog wants Kohl and Lee to compel Schmidt or Page to testify — by using the Senate’s subpoena powers. Google co-founder Page replaced the controversial Schmidt as CEO last April, though Schmidt retains the title of executive chairman.

In their letter to Google, the senators allude to the possibility of issuing subpoenas: “We would very much prefer to work this out by agreement rather than needing to resort to more formal procedures.”

Consumer Watchdog has been clamoring for Schmidt’s sworn testimony before Congress for over a year, ever since Germany caught Google harvesting private Wi-Fi data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in homes and businesses across the globe. Google had dispatched fleets of specially equipped cars through city streets in 30-plus nations to gather this data.

The advocacy group has created and circulated slick videos mocking Schmidt; the videos have been viewed more than half a million times.

“For a company whose mission is openness and transparency, Google has an obligation to be open with Congress and the American people and have the top executives answers questions with openness and transparency,” said Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog president.

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