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Google Chairman Eric Schmidt talks Android activations, Chinese government, social change, and privacy

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt spoke to AllThingsD‘s Dive Into Mobile 2013 conference this morning:

Android by numbers:

320 operators, 160 countries, 700,000 apps in the Play Store, and 1.5 million sales / activations of Android every single day. We’ll cross a billion towards the end of this year. That gives you a sense of the reach. Android is the primary vehicle of smartphones — we’ll quickly get to the $100 price point, which is the key for those next five billion people looking to get connected.

On his recent visit to North Korea:

“I’ve never been to a place so thought-controlled. I don’t think we’ll ever know what’s really going on in that country … I didn’t wear Google Glass there because I didn’t want to freak people out and there are a lot of guns there.”

On developing markets:

“In the developing world, we’re getting products launched with pre-loaded content in native languages. In our own world, we talk about the explosion of bandwidth, but that’s greater than the developing world. In that world, just going from no bandwidth to any bandwidth — that’s huge. In Burma, getting medical information to these people helps them become their own doctors in a sense. That’s huge.”

On the potential of technology to affect social change:

“Humans are naturally optimistic and clever. If the police are corrupt, people will figure out a way to see what the cops are up to — we see this in Mexico. With mobile devices, we’re empowering individuals. For the overwhelming number of people in the world, it’s a huge improvement.”

And the downside:

“The truth about technology is that it’s relatively neutral with an empowerment bias. So, it’s easy to come out with a positive view. But, there are things you have to manage — terrorism, etc. When Bell invented the phone, he didn’t make clear that criminals could use the phone to engage in crime. When we built the internet, we didn’t say that it was for everyone except those who want to criticize the government [as in China]. The best one is Iran — last week they said they didn’t like Google Earth, so they’re building their own. I guess they’ll call it Iranian Earth, and they’ll probably delete a few things… like Israel. It’s just madness.”

On privacy:

“Google has a responsibility to keep your data secure. You have a responsibility to keep your password secure and not install malware. With respect to your personal information, we allow you to take it out. The other thing is that we’re careful about when we use your information and we tell you that. We disclose what we do with your information, and we adhere to published principles. We have an absolute responsibility to keep your data secure. We spend a tremendous amount of time inside Google talking about these tradeoffs. We have very clear and documented policies on how we use them.”

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