Thursday, July 17, 2014

Growing America’s Businesses Online

Posted by Jim Lecinski, Vice President, Customer Solutions

Over the past few months, we’ve had the chance to talk to businesses all over the country and hear stories of how they’ve become successful. For many, it’s pretty simple: the Internet. The web is helping businesses and communities across the U.S. to grow and succeed. In fact, last year Google’s search and advertising tools helped provide $111 billion of economic activity for more than 1.5 million businesses—advertisers, publishers and nonprofits—across the U.S.

Take Go2marine, a boat supply company located on Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Washington State. Because of their remote location, bringing traffic to their website using Google AdWords plays an important role in their ability to sell their 250,000+ boat supplies to customers in 176 countries. When it’s winter in the U.S., they rely on customers located in other parts of the world where it’s boating season, with the web bringing them business from any place, in any season.

Or meet Don Morton, who taught reading, writing and language in lower-income neighborhoods in my home town of Chicago for nine years. In 2005, he began creating his own materials to supplement what the school system provided. Realizing that his worksheets could be useful for students and teachers everywhere, he created ereadingworksheets.com to provide his worksheets for free. Don started using Google AdSense to offset his costs by placing ads next to his content, and today he’s able to work full-time on his website and make an impact on students around the world.

These are just two examples of enterprising people making the most of Google tools to find new customers, connect with existing ones and grow their businesses; you can find plenty more of them in our Economic Impact Report. Our tools help connect business owners to their customers, whether they’re around the corner or across the world from each other. And when businesses flourish, it’s good news for the rest of us. Recent data shows that businesses that are online are expected to grow 40 percent faster and hire twice as many workers as businesses that aren’t. Every year, it gets clearer that the web helps lead to more successful businesses, stronger economies, more vibrant towns, and more prosperous communities.

Learn more about our economic impact in all 50 U.S. states, and how businesses are finding success through the web. Whether it’s a part for a boat or a grammar worksheet, we’re proud to play a role in giving businesses the tools they need to do more--to grow and thrive and connect with customers and communities all over the world.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Searching for the right balance

In May, the Court of Justice of the European Union established a “right to be forgotten." Today, we published an op-ed by David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, in the U.K.'s The Guardian, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, France's Le Figaro and Spain's El Pais, discussing the ruling and our response. We're republishing the op-ed in full below. -Ed.

When you search online, there’s an unwritten assumption that you’ll get an instant answer, as well as additional information if you need to dig deeper. This is all possible because of two decades worth of investment and innovation by many different companies. Today, however, search engines across Europe face a new challenge—one we’ve had just two months to get our heads around. That challenge is figuring out what information we must deliberately omit from our results, following a new ruling from the European Court of Justice.

In the past we’ve restricted the removals we make from search to a very short list. It includes information deemed illegal by a court, such as defamation, pirated content (once we’re notified by the rights holder), malware, personal information such as bank details, child sexual abuse imagery and other things prohibited by local law (like material that glorifies Nazism in Germany).

We’ve taken this approach because, as article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

But the European Court found that people have the right to ask for information to be removed from search results that include their names if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.” In deciding what to remove, search engines must also have regard to the public interest. These are, of course, very vague and subjective tests. The court also decided that search engines don’t qualify for a “journalistic exception.” This means that The Guardian could have an article on its website about an individual that’s perfectly legal, but we might not legally be able to show links to it in our results when you search for that person’s name. It’s a bit like saying the book can stay in the library, it just cannot be included in the library’s card catalogue.

It’s for these reasons that we disagree with the ruling. That said, we obviously respect the court’s authority and are doing our very best to comply quickly and responsibly. It’s a huge task as we’ve had over 70,000 take-down requests covering 250,000 webpages since May. So we now have a team of people individually reviewing each application, in most cases with limited information and almost no context.

The examples we’ve seen so far highlight the difficult value judgments search engines and European society now face: former politicians wanting posts removed that criticize their policies in office; serious, violent criminals asking for articles about their crimes to be deleted; bad reviews for professionals like architects and teachers; comments that people have written themselves (and now regret). In each case, someone wants the information hidden, while others might argue it should be out in the open.

When it comes to determining what’s in the the public interest, we’re taking into account a number of factors. These include whether: the information relates to a politician, celebrity, or other public figure; if the material comes from a reputable news source, and how recent it is; whether it involves political speech; questions of professional conduct that might be relevant to consumers; the involvement of criminal convictions that are not yet “spent”; and if the information is being published by a government. But these will always be difficult and debatable judgments.

We’re also doing our best to be transparent about removals: for example, we’re informing websites when one of their pages has been removed. But we cannot be specific about why we have removed the information because that could violate the individual’s privacy rights under the court's decision.

Of course, only two months in, our process is still very much a work in progress. It’s why we incorrectly removed links to some articles last week (they have since been reinstated). But the good news is that the ongoing, active debate that’s happening will inform the development of our principles, policies and practices—in particular about how to balance one person’s right to privacy with another’s right to know.

That’s why we've also set up an advisory council of experts, the final membership of which we're announcing today. These external experts from the worlds of academia, the media, data protection, civil society and the tech sector are serving as independent advisors to Google. The council will be asking for evidence and recommendations from different groups, and will hold public meetings this autumn across Europe to examine these issues more deeply. Its public report will include recommendations for particularly difficult removal requests (like criminal convictions); thoughts on the implications of the court’s decision for European Internet users, news publishers, search engines and others; and procedural steps that could improve accountability and transparency for websites and citizens.

The issues here at stake are important and difficult, but we’re committed to complying with the court’s decision. Indeed it's hard not to empathize with some of the requests we've seen—from the man who asked that we not show a news article saying he had been questioned in connection with a crime (he’s able to demonstrate that he was never charged) to the mother who requested that we remove news articles for her daughter’s name as she had been the victim of abuse. It’s a complex issue, with no easy answers. So a robust debate is both welcome and necessary, as, on this issue at least, no search engine has an instant or perfect answer.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A step toward government transparency

Posted by Richard Salgado, Director Law Enforcement and Information Security

Last year, President Obama directed the Intelligence Community to be more transparent about government surveillance programs, which led to a promise by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release a transparency report concerning national security orders it issues on an annual basis. Today, the U.S. government released its first transparency report containing statistics around national security orders for user data to Internet and telecom companies. This is a step in the right direction of increasing trust in both government and Internet services, and it demonstrates again that governments can embrace transparency while protecting national security. We applaud this first step, and strongly encourage other countries to follow suit, though there is still more to be done.

First, the government reports in a manner that makes it impossible to compare its report with the report of companies, such as the Google Transparency Report. Specifically, the government has chosen to disclose an estimated number of “targets” that it has surveilled, rather than the number of “accounts” at issue. This means that where the “target” is an organization composed of many people, and the government uses FISA to require disclosure of information from many different providers about the many accounts used by those people, covering a broad array of services, it may only report that there was one target. By contrast, in our methodology, and that used by other companies, we each would count the number of accounts impacted by a particular surveillance request. The government could provide more meaningful transparency by specifying the number of accounts too.

Second, we would like to see the federal government report on its national security demands with more information about the targets than it does today. Companies like Google can only provide a limited snapshot of how national security authorities are used. The Department of Justice, however, can provide a complete picture. To that end, we support legislation proposed by Senator Franken in August of 2013 that would mandate that the U.S. government release statistics around the number of both citizens and non-citizens whose information is collected and the scale and scope of the search and review of that data.

Finally, we gave early support for USA Freedom Act provisions which would allow companies to provide greater detail about the volume, scope, and type of national security demands that we ourselves receive for user data. Last month, the House version of the USA Freedom Act made improvements on the terms set out by the Department of Justice, and we hope that the Senate paves the way for companies to share more details about the national security demands that we receive.

I’m excited to see how far this debate has come; a year ago almost no one would have imagined that the federal government would release data about its national security demands to companies. These steps show that national security and transparency for the public are not in competition. We also hope that governments around the world will follow the lead of the U.S. government and be more open about the national security demands they serve on service providers and put out comparable transparency reports. Congress, and other governments around the world, should build on these steps.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A significant milestone for digital due process

Posted by David Lieber, Senior Privacy Policy Counsel 

Although the recent debate around government surveillance has focused on the reach of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), we have long supported efforts to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) so that the government must obtain a warrant to require a provider to disclose content stored with the provider. 

The ongoing campaign to update ECPA reached a significant milestone today. For the first time, a majority of Members in the U.S. House of Representatives have gone on record to support bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1852) sponsored by Representatives Yoder (R-KS), Graves (R-GA), and Polis (D-CO) that would create a bright-line, warrant-for-content rule for electronic communications. 

This common-sense reform is long overdue. While well-intentioned when enacted in 1986, ECPA no longer reflects users’ reasonable expectations of privacy. For example, an email may receive more robust privacy protections under ECPA depending on how old it is, whether it has been opened, and where it is stored — while users attach no importance to these distinctions. The Department of Justice itself has acknowledged that there is no principled reason for this rule. 

In 2010, a federal appeals court said that ECPA itself is unconstitutional to the extent that it authorizes the government to obtain the content of emails without a warrant. Google agrees with the court that the Fourth Amendment requires that the government issue a search warrant to compel a provider to disclose the content of communications that a user stores with a provider. 

Congress should send a clear message about the limits of government surveillance by enacting legislation that would create a bright-line, warrant-for-content standard. Now that a majority has gone on record to support this common sense update, we once again urge Congress to expeditiously pass legislation to update ECPA.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Commemorating D-Day’s 70th anniversary

Posted by Sixtine Fabre, Associate Program Manager, Google Cultural Institute

On June 6, 1944, the largest air, naval and military operation in history took place on the coast of Normandy. To commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, we’ve partnered with a number of cultural institutions and veterans from the U.S., U.K. and France to help share the stories of the Normandy Landings through the Cultural Institute and a Google+ Hangout on Air today.

Technology allows us to bring together information from around the world to showcase different perspectives on one moment in time. This is possible thanks to partners including The National Archives, The George C. Marshall Research Foundation, The Imperial War Museum, and Bletchley Park codebreaker center.

This collection provides an in-depth look into the Normandy Landings with 470 new documents and images ranging from photos of important preparations, meetings of leaders, and soldiers in action to documents like FDR’s D-Day Prayer and a top secret progress report from General Eisenhower to General Marshall. These pieces have been curated into digital exhibits that present a timeline of events for those who want to be guided through the content. For visitors who have a specific photo or document in mind, the search function allows users to find specific archival material.

Not only will we honor this history through archival content, but you’ll also have the chance to hear the stories of veterans who made the mission possible. Today, we’re hosting a Google+ Hangout on Air from the Caen War Memorial with American, French and British D-Day veterans. The conversation will be hosted by French journalist Gilles Bouleau and Caen Memorial historian Christophe Prime will take part as well. The Hangout will begin at 12:00 p.m. EST.

Whether it’s through the Cultural Institute or Hangouts on Air, we hope you’ll take the chance to learn more about D-Day and remember this important piece of our history.

US Amphibious Force Training for Invasion, The George C. Marshall Foundation

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The FCC’s Important Step to Power Wireless Broadband

Posted by Aparna Sridhar, Google Policy Counsel

Today, the Federal Communications Commission took an important step toward powering tomorrow’s wireless broadband.  The FCC adopted new rules that will designate some spectrum--resources that, under the FCC’s plan, would not in any event be auctioned for wireless carriers’ broadband services--for unlicensed devices and applications on a shared basis.  

Unlicensed uses of spectrum are an important complement to carriers’ mobile broadband services.  For example, the Wi-Fi networks in homes, businesses, and coffee shops allow users to take data off the wireless carriers’ licensed networks, which enables faster service and reduces congestion on cellular systems.  For smartphones and tablets in particular, Cisco has found that daily data consumption over Wi-Fi is four times that of cellular.  Offloading data from cellular networks to Wi-Fi has saved mobile network operators billions of dollars in network deployment costs.  Faster and cheaper access to online services drives usage of those services and thus demand for all forms of network access, creating a virtuous cycle of investment.  Access to new, lower-frequency TV band spectrum could accelerate this process and create more unlicensed service options, allowing better indoor coverage and service in rural and underserved areas.  

The FCC’s plan allows television broadcasters to sell their spectrum rights voluntarily so they can be purchased by mobile operators.  This will enable more efficient spectrum use and spur economic growth.

The FCC had a challenge in designing its plan for an auction of TV broadcast spectrum, and we’re pleased that it is supporting both licensed and unlicensed uses.  While the plan doesn’t provide as much unlicensed spectrum as we recommended, it should provide just enough unlicensed spectrum to attract investments in equipment and operations in the new band.  Google will do its part to ensure that our Spectrum Database supports sharing of the newly allocated spectrum.

We’re grateful that Congressional supporters of unlicensed spectrum use have continued to back the FCC’s progress on this front. While there’s still a lot of work ahead to get the final details of the auction right, we look forward to working with all stakeholders to build the next generation of wireless technologies and see them deployed across America.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New FCC Rules Will Boost Wireless Broadband

Posted by Milo Medin, Vice President of Access Services

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission adopted proposed rules that -- if finalized later this year as planned -- will implement a 2012 recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and put spectrum to better use for broadband.  The proposed rules include some of the most forward-thinking spectrum policy anywhere in the world, and the FCC should be commended for moving aggressively towards implementation.

The key idea is that modern database technologies will allow commercial use of spectrum that historically has been dedicated to federal purposes, when and where the government doesn’t have immediate need for it.  Additionally, this new model allows flexible commercial use of the spectrum, where the database can mediate between protected operations like cellular LTE, and unprotected operations (which could be WiFi-type devices), without the government having to pick one or the other.  

The government will also benefit from having commercial devices in their bands.  Federal users will be able to buy lower-cost and higher-performance equipment based on consumer smartphone technologies.  It’s a win-win approach that lets government agencies continue to use their spectrum and take advantage of the commercial ecosystem, while also helping meet the growing demand for mobile broadband and device connectivity.  

Google has long advocated for more efficient use of spectrum through sharing technologies.  We operate an FCC-approved Spectrum Database that enables the use of vacant TV broadcast channels for wireless broadband.  And, we’ve built a prototype Spectrum Access System that is in use at our headquarters in Mountain View, California.  We believe spectrum sharing can unlock huge consumer benefits compared with traditional approaches of clearing existing users to make way for new ones, which can take as long as a decade to implement when it is possible at all.

It also is important that the FCC continue pushing hard to allow flexible use of spectrum in multiple bands. Different radio frequencies are suited to different applications.  For instance, the 600 MHz TV broadcast spectrum that Congress designated for voluntary recovery is especially useful for longer range services that provide excellent coverage, while higher frequencies (like the 3550 MHz band that’s at issue in today’s FCC rules) are ideal for quickly and affordably scaling up capacity in densely populated areas.  In these bands and others, federal policy should maximize the availability of spectrum that’s usable for broadband under a variety of business models.

Google welcomes the new FCC rules as a major step forward.  We’re committed to continue to work with the FCC and other federal agencies to make shared commercial access a reality, while ensuring federal operations are safeguarded.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Using Technology to Celebrate and Remember the Civil Rights Movement

Posted by Susan Molinari, VP Public Policy  

Technology can help us understand our past and connect with history in extraordinary and meaningful ways. This week, the LBJ Presidential Library is holding a three day Civil Rights Summit to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and we are proud to provide technology to help support this event.

Over the next three days, we will be live streaming the program so people from all over the world can tune in to hear the panels and speakers, including remarks from four U.S. presidents. Each day will also feature heroes from the civil rights movement, the sports arena and the music industry, as well as panels on new civil rights challenges around immigration rights, gay rights, women’s rights and so much more.  We hope you can tune in, but if you miss the live stream, you can find all of the content on the LBJ Library’s YouTube page.

President Jimmy Carter will also be doing a Google+ Hangout on Air Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST.  Rock musician Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame will be on Air Tuesday at 2:30 PM PST, and playwright Robert Schenkkan, whose play about LBJ is currently on Broadway, will be on Air Wednesday at 2:00 PM PST.

Finally, Google has teamed up with the National Archives to launch a new collection on the Cultural Institute to capture the history of the passage of the Civil Rights Act online. Much of the content on the site is from the LBJ Presidential Library and features images, letters, telegrams, and video from January 1961 when President Kennedy first takes office to July 1964 when President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act into law. Here are a few examples of what can be found in the collection:


We are honored to be able to help capture this important event and this special exhibit highlighting one of America’s most pivotal moments in history.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Transparency Report: Requests for user information up 120 percent over four years

Posted by Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security

While we’ve always known how important transparency is when it comes to government requests, the events of the past year have underscored just how urgent the issue is. From being the first company to disclose information about National Security Letters to fighting for the ability to publish more about FISA requests, we’ve continually advocated for your right to know.

Today, we’re updating our Transparency Report for the ninth time. This updated Report details the number of government requests we received for user information in criminal investigations during the second half of 2013. Government requests for user information in criminal cases have increased by about 120 percent since we first began publishing these numbers in 2009. Though our number of users has grown throughout the time period, we’re also seeing more and more governments start to exercise their authority to make requests.

We consistently push back against overly broad requests for your personal information, but it’s also important for laws to explicitly protect you from government overreach. That’s why we’re working alongside eight other companies to push for surveillance reform, including more transparency. We’ve all been sharing best practices about how to report the requests we receive, and as a result our Transparency Report now includes governments that made less than 30 requests during a six-month reporting period, in addition to those that made 30+ requests.

We also call on Congress to pass legislation that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require governmental entities to obtain a warrant before they can compel online companies to disclose the content of users’ communications. As we have noted previously, legislation introduced by Senators Leahy and Lee (R-Utah) in the Senate and Representatives Yoder (R-Kan.), Graves (R-Ga.), and Polis (D-Colo.) in the House would achieve that goal. This legislation enjoys broad, bipartisan support, and we urge Congress to move quickly toward enacting legislation that would update ECPA in a manner that comports with how people use the Internet today. Moreover, more than 110,000 people have signed a White House petition, asking the Administration to support legislation that would update ECPA in this manner.

Also, people have been asking about how we respond to search warrants in the U.S., so we’ve created an entertaining video to explain in plain language how this process works. We apply the same rigorous standards presented in this video to every request we receive, regardless of type.



You deserve to know when and how governments request user information online, and we’ll keep fighting to make sure that’s the case.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Apply for a 2014 Google Policy Fellowship

The Internet policy world ripe with fascinating policy issues. From government surveillance and data security to patent reform and copyright to free expression and open access to information, there has never been a more exciting time to get involved. We’re excited to launch the 7th summer of the Google Policy Fellowship, connecting students of all levels and disciplines with organizations working on the forefront of these and other critical issues for the future of the Internet. Applications are open today for North America and Latin America, and students of all levels and disciplines are welcome to apply before Friday, April 14, 2014. 

This year’s organizations include: 

  • American Library Association 
  • National Consumers League 
  • National Hispanic Media Coalition 
  • Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation
  • Public Knowledge
  • TechFreedom
  • Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Global Network Initiative 
  • R Street 
  • iKeepSafe 
  • ConnectSafely 
  • The Citizen Lab 
  • Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic
  • American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Future of Privacy Forum
  • Technology Policy Institute
  • Future of Music
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Internet Education Foundation
  • FundaciĆ³n Karisma 
  • AsociaciĆ³n por los Derechos Civiles
  • Derechos Digitales 
  • Article 19 Mexico 

More fellowship opportunities in Asia, Africa, and Europe will be coming soon. You can learn about the program, application process and host organizations on the Google Public Policy Fellowship website.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Protecting Consumers From Identity Theft and Scams


Posted by Sheily Chhabria, Head of Strategic Operations, Product Quality Operations

Keeping your information safe and secure is one of Google’s top priorities and to celebrate National Consumer Protection Week we wanted to share a few things that we do to help protect you and your information from harm on the web.

Google scans the web to find the most useful and interesting content to display in your search results, but while we’re looking for all that good stuff, we sometimes find sites or links that seem unsafe - that might be set up to steal your information or silently take over your computer. We identify about 10,000 of these bad sites daily and if you try and visit a site that is unsafe, we show warnings like the one below.   


These warnings help you avoid sites containing software that might steal your personal information or harm your computer.

These warnings appear on millions of Google Search results and we also make information about these unsafe sites available to other companies and developers so that users on many services, not just Google, can be protected from harm. This work helps protect you and about one billion other internet users from these types of sites .

If one of these bad sites did manage to steal your sensitive information, like your social security numbers or driver’s license, and published it on the web, you can report it to Google to have your information taken out of our Search results. We also follow this process for sensitive financial information like credit card numbers or bank account numbers.

Google also has strict policies about the kinds of goods and services that can be advertised using our ad systems and on our publisher network. For example, we don’t allow ads for certain types of things that might harm your computer or cost you money, like malicious downloads, or ads for products or services with unclear billing practices, like hidden costs. We also don’t allow ads with misleading claims (“lose weight guaranteed!”), for counterfeit goods, or fraudulent work-at-home scams (“make a million dollars an hour - from your kitchen!”). 

Misleading ad screenshot .jpg
We don’t allow scammy ads that mislead consumers

In 2013 alone we removed more than 350 million bad ads from our systems and banned more than 270,000 advertisers from using Google’s ad services. We proactively look for these ads to keep them off our systems, and listen to feedback from consumers if they tell us an ad is no good. In fact, you can report scams, inappropriate content or bad behavior using some of the safety tools that are built into many Google products.  

Technology is complicated, but thankfully you don’t have to be a computer scientist to help protect yourself online. The Google Safety Center has advice and tips from security experts on the simple things you can do to protect yourself and your family from online threats like identity theft or scams. And if you’re looking for a way to celebrate along with us this week, please check out our blog post series on quick steps you can take to help improve your online safety and security. You can also get more information, videos and advice from some of the many consumer protection organizations celebrating this week, such as the Federal Trade Commission,  the National Association of Attorneys General and many individual State Attorneys General, and the Better Business Bureau.