Google Addresses Glass Privacy, Gun Ads, China

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Google (GOOG) shareholders at the company's annual meeting late Thursday pressed executives on covert Glass photos, its ban on gun advertising and whether the search giant is growing its business in China.

Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said Google's "revenue and advertising are growing very nicely" in China.

"We want the Chinese government to stop censoring information, including free speech," Schmidt said at the event, which was webcast live.

Google shareholders re-elected the company's 10 directors, including Schmidt, CEO Larry Page and co-founder Sergey Brin.

Four shareholder-submitted proposals were defeated, as expected, in large part because the company's dual-class stock structure puts much of the voting power in the hands of top executives.

A shareholder pressed the company on why it doesn't take advertising from gunmakers or sellers on its Google Shopping advertising program. Accepting such ads would boost revenue, the shareholder said.

"We have not allowed gun ads since almost the inception of our programs," Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said.

Other questions were raised about Google Glass, the company's in-development computer glasses. Shareholder John Simpson, who runs a Google watchdog group, Consumer Watchdog, wanted to know whether Google employees are concerned about privacy issues such as users taking covert photos and video with the product.

Before new products are launched, "people worry about all sorts of things," Page said. "I would just encourage you all to try to not create fear and concern about technological change before it's out there."

The company last week banned pornography apps from Google Glass, and one shareholder asked why the company didn't also ban it from other products, including Chrome browsers.

"Chrome is a browser that accesses anything on the Internet and unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your view, adult porn is available on the Internet," Schmidt said.

Google is still thinking long term with "big bets" in voice-recognition technology, Glass and self-driving cars, executives told shareholders in prepared remarks.

Schmidt says the company is focusing on voice technology that'll allow Google users to talk to their computers and Glass glasses.

"We believe that voice is increasingly important," Schmidt said.

Google also took the opportunity to show off its self-driving cars, which are being tested in California.

"In 100 years time, I wonder — I really do wonder — if we'll marvel that we once let people drive cars," Schmidt said.

The company has shut down some 70 products in the past two years, Schmidt says, adding that "not every bet that Google places is going to work."

One of the shareholder proposals called for more self-reporting by Google about how it uses and disposes of lead batteries in its supply chain.

"Currently, shareholders are missing key pieces of information about how Google is using lead batteries," which can cause lead poisoning if not disposed of properly, said Meredith Benton, a representative of Pax World Mutual Funds, which submitted the proposal.

The other three proposals called for Google to make public its executive succession plans; for each share to have an equal vote; and for executives to retain a certain amount of their optioned stock.

Non-shareholder reporters were not allowed to attend the meeting in person.

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