Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt answered questions at the company's annual stockholder meeting in Mountain View, Calif., on Thursday with some levity at North Korea's expense, and a pointed dig at China.
"I was troubled by continued reports of censorship and spying on people," he said of China's relationship with its citizens as a way of explaining why Google refuses to invest more resources in the country. China currently boast more than 560 million people using the Internet.
Schmidt made his comments just as news was breaking of the alleged participation of major technology companies, including Google, in the U.S. government's PRISM domestic surveillance program.
When asked to comment, Google denied knowledge of the government program using the same language that it used to respond to an earlier CNET query on the matter.
Schmidt sounded a humorous tone as he corrected a questioner who asked about his experiences meeting the "Dear Leader" of North Korea. "I actually met with the Respected Leader, the Dear Leader is actually embalmed. And after he spoke with Dennis Rodman, he declined to speak with me."
Schmidt, along with Google co-founder Larry Page and senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer David Drummond, fielded questions ranging from privacy concerns and pornography involving Google Glass, to appeals both for and against the unionization of contract workers at the company, to its participation in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbying group, to a recent Google Doodle that honored farm worker unionizer Cesar Chavez instead of celebrating Easter.
The executives also addressed the planned demise of iGoogle later this year. Page told a questioner lamenting the loss of the customizable information roundup that iGoogle displays that Google has plans for a replacement, although he wouldn't say what that was.
Schmidt nodded, saying that the company recognized that people wanted a replacement. "Watch this space," he said.