MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Google shouldn't be surprised to face government scrutiny as it continues to grow.
At least, that's what CEO Eric Schmidt thinks. In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters prior to Google's annual meeting at the company's headquarters, Schmidt deflected questions about reported government inquiries that have surfaced in past weeks by saying "we should expect governments around the world to pay attention to what we do, and hold us to the principles that we've articulated."
The Department of Justice is reportedly looking into Google's settlement with publishers over the rights to display book content online, which Schmidt called a "historic" agreement. And Google confirmed that the Federal Trade Commission wants to talk to Google about Schmidt's role on Apple's board of directors, which could be seen as a conflict of interest given Apple's iPhone business line and Google's Android project.
Schmidt said such scrutiny is to be expected as Google expands its reach into areas that were previously the domain of other interests.
"We continue to believe the mission of the company is important, even if there is pressure from other industries. (But) we are more careful about when and how we do things that are going to raise the concerns of any party," he said. Rachel Whetstone, Google's vice president of public policy and communications, has been leading efforts in this area, he said.
Other items discussed during the day:
Susan Wojcicki, vice president of product management, said Google is looking hard into ways to make money off social-networking services, as there there has been an "explosion" in potential ad inventory. "We believe there are ways to monetize it over time, but it will be different from search because the nature of intent is different."
Fresh off her trip to Washington, D.C. to testify before a House subcommittee, Marissa Mayer, vice president for search products and user experience, said Google is looking at how news coverage will evolve in the future, including possible changes to the way news stories are presented. Mayer is also in charge of thinking of ways to improve the relevance of "microblogging" (read: Twitter) into both Google's regular search results and blog search, she said.
Speaking of Twitter, Schmidt said that Google was "waiting for the right opportunities at the right price" when it comes to making acquisitions. Twitter, of course, has been the subject of countless rumors regarding acquisitions from the likes of Google and, most recently, Apple.
Schmidt declined to comment on the possibility of Android Netbooks, such as appeared to surface earlier this week with regards to Dell. But he did say that he believes "the Netbook phenomenon looks very real," and that it fits well into Google's notions of cloud computing.