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.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It’s time to reform government surveillance laws

Posted by Susan Molinari, VP Public Policy 

The revelations about government surveillance practices—both in the U.S. and globally—over the past eight months have sparked a serious and overdue debate about the nature and scope of existing laws and programs. Today, many organizations and companies are participating in “The Day We Fight Back,” a series of events and awareness campaigns highlighting the urgent need for surveillance reform around the world.

Google recognizes the very real threats that the U.S. and other countries face, but we strongly believe that government surveillance programs should operate under a legal framework that is rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight.

In December, along with other technology companies, we unveiled a set of government surveillance reform principles that address many of the recent concerns around government surveillance. In Congress, Representative Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Senator Leahy (D-Vt.) have introduced legislation—the USA Freedom Act—that would codify many of these principles. As they both noted when introducing this bill, government surveillance programs “have come at a high cost to Americans’ privacy rights, business interests and standing in the international community.”

The USA Freedom Act reflects some of the key recommendations made by the President’s Review Group on Intelligence Communications and Technologies as well as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. We support this legislation and we urge Congress to enact it into law.

But there’s more that can be done as we consider appropriate reforms to government surveillance laws. Congress should 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. 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. More than 100 companies, trade associations, and consumer groupsand more than 100,000 Americans—have signed on to support this important update to ECPA, which no longer reflects users’ reasonable expectations of privacy.

We will continue to press Congress to adopt these important measures, which would represent significant progress in the broader effort to reform government surveillance laws. If you want to receive updates from us, please visit google.com/takeaction and sign up.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Keeping Your Tax Identity Safe

Posted by Rob Mahini, Policy Counsel

Once upon a time, Tax Day meant pens and pencils, paper forms, and long waits at the post office. Now, the Internet makes tax day much simpler -- online software and e-Filing now allows everyone a much smoother Tax Day experience. Unfortunately, the Internet also makes something else easier: tax identity theft that allows scammers to do things like file for fraudulent tax refunds or apply for jobs.

As the FTC noted earlier this month, "identity theft has been the top consumer complaint to the FTC for 13 consecutive years, and tax identity theft has been an increasing share of the Commission’s identity theft complaints." In fact, tax ID theft accounted for more than 43 percent of the FTC's ID theft complaints, "making it the largest category of identity theft complaints by a substantial margin."

With this in mind, the FTC hosted events around the country last week as part of its Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, to educate consumers about the risks of tax identity theft and how to avoid becoming a victim. The IRS also released a video this month to educate taxpayers on what to do if they are victimized by tax ID theft.

At Google's Good To Know site, consumers can learn about the many ways that they can protect all of their data, including their SSN, tax forms, and other information that tax identity thieves are after. For example:
  • Don’t reply if you see a suspicious email, instant message or webpage asking for your personal or financial information. Identity thieves try to use these phishing techniques to steal your information such as your social security number or other tax info. 
  • If you see a message from someone you know that doesn’t seem like them, their account might have been compromised by a cyber criminal who is trying to con you into providing your SSN or other sensitive information. 
  • Don’t send your password via email, and don’t share your password with others -- thieves that gain access to your accounts can then steal your tax identity. Legitimate sites won’t ask you to send them your passwords via email, so don’t respond if you get requests for your passwords to online sites.

The ease and convenience of the Internet has helped simplify tax filing. And following these tips will help keep your tax information safe in the process.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Busting Bad Advertising Practices — 2013 Year in Review

Posted by: Mike Hochberg, Director, Ads Engineering

(Cross-posted from the Google AdWords Blog)

Advertising helps fund great web services and enables companies of all sizes to grow their businesses online. However, this economy can also attract bad actors that want to abuse online advertising tools for harmful or deceptive purposes.

We've allocated substantial technical, financial, and human resources to stopping bad advertising practices and protecting users on the web. Hundreds of our engineers, policy experts and others have dedicated their careers to this work.

Following up on our 2012 report, below is an overview of how we fought bad ads and bad ad-funded content in 2013.

Stopping more bad ads from fewer bad sources

We removed more than 350 million bad ads from our systems in 2013. To put that in perspective, if someone looked at each of these for one second, it would take them more than ten years to see them all. This was a significant increase from approximately 220 million ads removed in 2012. This trend has been consistent in the last several years and we attribute it to several factors, including: the growth of online advertising overall and constant improvement of our detection systems.

The number of advertisers we disabled, however, dropped from over 850,000 in 2012 to more than 270,000 in 2013. In part, we attribute this decline to scammers — counterfeiters, for example — being thwarted by our safety screens and searching for less-secure targets.

Counter-attacking counterfeiters

We continue to see positive results in our work to combat counterfeiters. Attempts to market counterfeit goods on AdWords decreased by 47% in 2012 and 82% in 2013. In parallel, the volume of complaints about these ads dropped by 85% in 2012 and by another 78% in 2013.

As these numbers have declined, we’re pleased to report that we’ve also banned fewer bad advertisers for counterfeit violations. Last year, we banned approximately 14,000 advertisers for trying to sell counterfeit goods — a decline of more than 80% compared to 2012.

Preventing good ads from funding bad content

Maintaining a healthy ads ecosystem isn’t just about stopping bad ads and advertisers; we closely monitor the sites and mobile apps that show our ads as well. Early last year, we outlined some of this work, with a particular focus on our efforts to stop scammy ad-funded software, like toolbars, that provides a poor user-experience.

By the end of 2013, we had blacklisted more than 200,000 total publisher pages, an encouraging decline from last year, and disapproved more than 3,000,000 attempts to join our AdSense network. We also removed more than 250,000 publisher accounts for various policy violations. This includes more than 5,000 account removals for violating our copyright policies, an increase of more than 25% compared to 2012.

Here’s a more complete overview of our work to bust bad advertising practices in 2013:


This is an ever-evolving and ongoing fight. Bad actors are relentless, often very sophisticated and will not rest on their laurels. But neither will we. Nothing is more important than the security of our users and we’ll continue to work tirelessly to keep them safe online.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Global Network Initiative sets important precedent for transparency

Posted by: Ross LaJeunesse, Global Head of Free Expression and International Relations, and Lewis Segall, Senior Counsel

Five years ago, when we became founding members of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), we agreed that outside assessors would review how we’re doing against GNI’s Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy. GNI brings together diverse stakeholders to address the risks to a free and open Internet, and conducting these assessments is an important part of the organization's mandate.

This morning, GNI released its first ever Company Assessment Report. The organization used independent assessors to look into whether the GNI’s three founding companies -- Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft -- are upholding GNI’s principles in practice. After reviewing specific cases on how Google is implementing the principles, the board found that we are compliant and working to protect freedom of expression and privacy online.

Even though it can be uncomfortable to open up to outside scrutiny, we believe the assessment is a useful model for companies, NGOs, academics, and others working together to assess how companies respond to government requests related to human rights.

Today’s report also supports the organization’s other primary task, advocacy -- ensuring that governments everywhere protect privacy and free expression online. If you’re interested in learning more about how Google responds to government demands for user information and content removal, check out our Transparency Report.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Innovation, Not Litigation

Posted by Kent Walker, SVP & General Counsel

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will consider H.R. 3309, the Innovation Act. This bipartisan bill, introduced by Chairman Bob Goodlatte, approved by the House Judiciary Committee with a 33-5 vote, and supported by the White House, would go a long way to solve the patent troll problem.

The Innovation Act would address the explosion of abusive patent litigation, helping the patent system work as intended — promoting innovation.

Patent protection is meant to provide an incentive to innovate, spurring real progress that benefits consumers. Unfortunately, patent trolls are abusing a flood of questionable patents — like those on basic e-commerce tools such as online shopping carts and shipment notification emails — to attack supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, retailers, and many other businesses, large and small. Trolls use the threat of time-consuming and expensive litigation to extort settlements, even where their claims wouldn’t hold up in court.

This kind of patent troll litigation has grown like a particularly noxious weed, increasing four-fold since 2005. By some estimates it cost the U.S. economy nearly $500 billion over the past two decades. And the problem is growing.

It’s time to step up and take action. A broad coalition of companies and organizations support the Innovation Act, which would level the playing field by controlling discovery costs, raising pleading standards, and making fee-shifting a more meaningful deterrent to frivolous allegations. We agree with Chairman Goodlatte on the need to stop the exponential increase in the use of dubious patents to attack American businesses. And we believe that legislation can go further to address the significant burden that invalid business method patents impose on innovative companies.

We strongly support Chairman Goodlatte's bill and encourage all Members of Congress to vote for this important piece of legislation. The Innovation Act would stop patent trolls from abusing the system, letting America’s productive companies focus on creating new products and jobs, not fighting frivolous patent suits.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Launching our spectrum database to help users dynamically access TV white space spectrum

Posted by Alan Norman, Access Principal

Spectrum is an essential resource to fuel the Internet's future—it can power improved broadband access and spark innovation in wireless technology. And, as with any important resource, effective management can help make sure we're making the most of what's available. Both policy and technology have a role to play in making sure that spectrum is managed, allocated, and shared in ways that can help the Internet grow.

Google's Spectrum Database is one such technology, developed to enable dynamic sharing of TV white space spectrum; this allows parties to use spectrum when they need it, and make it available to other users when they don't. In July 2013, we were certified by the FCC to operate the database for commercial use. Since then, early testers have provided feedback and insights on future innovations. Testers included GE Industrial Communications, which used the database to explore how it could enable new communication options for its Industrial Internet products.

Now, we're launching a developer API for the database that enables general exploration for any user, as well as a commercial account option for device manufacturers. The commercial account allows equipment makers to register their devices with our database in order to operate on available TV white space.

Adaptrum is the first device manufacturer to be certified to use our Spectrum Database, and is already using the tool in the field for a white space deployment, providing public Wi-Fi on the campus of West Virginia University (WVU). The white space network, which is managed by Air.U co-founder Declaration Networks, uses Adaptrum's equipment integrated with our Spectrum Database. The collaboration shows how dynamic spectrum sharing can help deliver broadband coverage and capacity to more rural areas.

We hope that the database continues to support new opportunities like the WVU white space network. With forward-looking policy as well technology advances, we can further encourage dynamic spectrum sharing and the wireless innovation that it supports.

Please contact GE Industrial Communications, Air.U, or Adaptrum for more information on their work.

Government requests for user information double over three years

Cross-posted with the Official Google Blog

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

In a year in which government surveillance has dominated the headlines, today we're updating our Transparency Report for the eighth time. Since we began sharing these figures with you in 2010, requests from governments for user information have increased by more than 100 percent. This comes as usage of our services continues to grow, but also as more governments have made requests than ever before. And these numbers only include the requests we're allowed to publish.


Over the past three years, we've continued to add more details to the report, and we're doing so again today. We're including additional information about legal process for U.S. criminal requests: breaking out emergency disclosures, wiretap orders, pen register orders and other court orders.

We want to go even further. We believe it's your right to know what kinds of requests and how many each government is making of us and other companies. However, the U.S. Department of Justice contends that U.S. law does not allow us to share information about some national security requests that we might receive. Specifically, the U.S. government argues that we cannot share information about the requests we receive (if any) under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But you deserve to know.

Earlier this year, we brought a federal case to assert that we do indeed have the right to shine more light on the FISA process. In addition, we recently wrote a letter of support for two pieces of legislation currently proposed in the U.S. Congress. And we're asking governments around the world to uphold international legal agreements that respect the laws of different countries and guarantee standards for due process are met.

Our promise to you is to continue to make this report robust, to defend your information from overly broad government requests, and to push for greater transparency around the world.

We strongly believe that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) must be updated in this Congress, and we urge Congress to expeditiously enact a bright-line, warrant-for-content rule. Governmental entities should be required to obtain a warrant—issued based on a showing of probable cause—before requiring companies like Google to disclose the content of users' electronic communications.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Testifying before the U.S. Senate on transparency legislation

Posted by Pablo Chavez, Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs

This morning, Richard Salgado, Director of Law Enforcement and Information Security, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law on the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013.

We commend Senators Franken and Heller for introducing this bill, which would allow Internet service providers to disclose basic statistics about requests we receive from law enforcement for users’ information in the course of a national security investigation. The current lack of transparency about government surveillance programs undermines trust, economic growth and security, and the promise of the Internet as a platform for openness.

More transparency can help fix that. Since 2010, our Transparency Report has shed light on requests for user data that we receive from the government. We strive to surface new and useful data with every update. Richard’s testimony details our efforts to be allowed to disclose statistics about FISA requests that we may receive, including our motion before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Transparency is crucial, but it is only one step among many needed. As we wrote to Congress two weeks ago, it is clear that the U.S. government and other governments must examine broader reforms to government surveillance.

You can read Richard’s written testimony and watch the webcast of the hearing starting at 10:00 AM Eastern.