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Preview: Google Public Policy Blog

Google Public Policy Blog

Google's views on government, policy and politics.

Last Build Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2018 15:00:00 -0000


2018 Google North America Public Policy Fellowship now accepting applications2018 Google North America Public Policy Fellowship now accepting applicationsPublic Policy Fellowship Coordinator

Fri, 02 Mar 2018 15:00:00 -0000

Applications are now open for the 2018 North America Google Policy Fellowship, a paid fellowship that will connect students interested in emerging technology policy issues with leading nonprofits, think tanks and advocacy groups in Washington, DC, and California. This year’s fellows will be given the opportunity to work at a diverse group of organizations at the forefront of addressing some of today’s most challenging tech policy questions. Whether working on issues at the intersection of accessibility and technology or researching the future of work at a preeminent think tank, students will gain valuable hands on experience tackling critical tech policy issues throughout the summer.

The application period opens today for the North America region and all applications must be received by 12:00AM midnight ET, Tuesday, March 20. This year's program will run from June 5–August 11, with regular programming throughout the summer. More specific information, including a list of this year’s hosts, can be found on our site.

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.

(image) Applications are now open for the 2018 North America Google Policy Fellowship

Updating our “right to be forgotten” Transparency ReportUpdating our “right to be forgotten” Transparency ReportProduct Lead, Google Transparency Report

Mon, 26 Feb 2018 17:00:00 -0000

In May 2014, in a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice established the “right to be forgotten,” or more accurately, the “right to delist,” allowing Europeans to ask search engines to delist information about themselves from search results. In deciding what to delist, search engines like Google must consider if the information in question is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive”—and whether there is a public interest in the information remaining available in search results.Understanding how we make these types of decisions—and how people are using new rights like those granted by the European Court—is important. Since 2014, we’ve provided information about “right to be forgotten” delisting requests in our Transparency Report, including the number of URLs submitted to us, the number of URLs delisted and not delisted, and anonymized examples of some of the requests we have received.New data in the Transparency ReportToday, we’re expanding the scope of our transparency reporting about the “right to be forgotten” and adding new data going back to January 2016 when our reviewers started manually annotating each URL submitted to us with additional information, including:Requesters:We show a breakdown of the requests made by private individuals vs. non-private individuals—e.g., government officials or corporate entities.Content of the request:We classify the content that the individual has asked us to delist into a set of categories: personal information, professional information, crime, and name not found, meaning that we were not able to find the individual’s name on the page.Content of the site: When we evaluate a URL for potential delisting, we classify the website that hosts the page as a directory site, news site, social media, or other.Content delisting rate:This is the rate at which we delist content by category on a quarterly basis.Looking back: analyzing three years of delisting requestsIn addition to updating the Transparency Report, we’re also providing a snapshot of our efforts to process these requests over the last three years.We’re also releasing the draft of a new research paper called Three Years of the Right to be Forgotten, which has been submitted to the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium for peer review. This paper uses our manual reviewers’ annotations to provide a comprehensive analysis of the ways Europeans are using the “right to be forgotten.”We hope the new data we’ve added to the Transparency Report and our research paper will help inform the ongoing discussion about the interplay between the right to privacy and the right to access lawful information online. We’re expanding our transparency reporting about the “right to be forgotten” and releasing a research paper analyzing the ways Europeans are using the “right to be forgotten.”[...]

Extending domain opt-out and AdWords API toolsExtending domain opt-out and AdWords API toolsVP & Deputy General Counsel, Google LLC

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 18:45:00 -0000

In 2012, Google made voluntary commitments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that are set to expire on December 27th, 2017. At that time, we agreed to remove certain clauses from our AdWords API Terms and Conditions. We also agreed to provide a mechanism for websites to opt out of the display of their crawled content on certain Google web pages linked to in the United States on a domain-by-domain basis.  

We believe that these policies provide continued flexibility for developers and websites, and we will be continuing our current practices regarding the AdWords API Terms and Conditions and the domain-by-domain opt-out following the expiration of the voluntary commitments. Additional information can be found here:

(image) Google will continue our current practices regarding the AdWords API Terms and Conditions and the domain-by-domain opt-out.

New government removals and National Security Letter dataNew government removals and National Security Letter dataDirector, Law Enforcement and Information Security

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 18:30:00 -0000

Since 2010, we’ve shared regular updates in our Transparency Report about the effects of government and corporate policies on users’ data and content. Our goal has always been to make this information as accessible as possible, and to continue expanding this report with new and relevant data.

Today, we’re announcing three updates to our Transparency Report. We’re expanding the National Security Letters (NSL) section, releasing new data on requests from governments to remove content from services like YouTube and Blogger, and making it easier for people to share select data and charts from the Transparency Report.

National Security Letters

Following the 2015 USA Freedom Act, the FBI started lifting indefinite gag restrictions—prohibitions against publicly sharing details—on particular NSLs. Last year, we began publishing NSLs we have received where, either through litigation or legislation, we have been freed of these nondisclosure obligations. We have added a new subsection to the NSL page of the Transparency Report where we publish these letters. We also added letters to the collection, and look to update this section regularly.

Government requests for content removals

As usage of our services increases, we remain committed to keeping internet users safe, working with law enforcement to remove illegal content, and complying with local laws. During this latest reporting period, we’ve continued to expand our work with local law enforcement. From January to June 2017, we received 19,176 requests from governments around the world to remove 76,714 pieces of content. This was a 20 percent percent increase in removal requests over the second half of 2016.

Making our Transparency Report easier to use

Finally, we’ve implemented a new “deep linking” feature that makes it easier to bookmark and share specific charts in the Transparency Report. Sorting data by country, time period, and other categories now generates a distinct web address at the top of your browser window. This allows you to create a link that will show, for example, just government removals data in France, by Google product, for the first half of 2015. We hope this will make it easier for citizens to find and reference information in the report, and for journalists and researchers to highlight specific details that they may be examining as well.

By continuing to make updates like these, we aim to spark new conversations about transparency, accountability and the role of governments and companies in the flow of information online.

(image) We’re updating our Transparency Report with new data, an expanded National Security Letters (NSL) section, and a new “deep linking” feature.

Update on the Global Internet Forum to Counter TerrorismUpdate on the Global Internet Forum to Counter TerrorismHead of YouTube Public Policy

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 15:00:00 -0000

At last year's EU Internet Forum, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube declared our joint determination to curb the spread of terrorist content online. Over the past year, we have formalized this partnership with the launch of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). We hosted our first meeting in August where representatives from the tech industry, government and non-governmental organizations came together to focus on three key areas: technological approaches, knowledge sharing, and research. Since then, we have participated in a Heads of State meeting at the UN General Assembly in September and the G7 Interior Ministers meeting in October, and we look forward to hosting a GIFCT event and attending the EU Internet Forum in Brussels on the 6th of December.The GIFCT is committed to working on technological solutions to help thwart terrorists' use of our services, and has built on the groundwork laid by the EU Internet Forum, particularly through a shared industry hash database, where companies can create “digital fingerprints” for terrorist content and share it with participating companies. The database, which we announced our commitment to building last December and became operational last spring, now contains more than 40,000 hashes. It allows member companies to use those hashes to identify and remove matching content — videos and images — that violate our respective policies or, in some cases, block terrorist content before it is even posted. We are pleased that, Cloudinary, Instagram,, LinkedIn, Oath, and Snap have also recently joined this hash-sharing consortium, and we will continue our work to add additional companies throughout 2018.In order to disrupt the distribution of terrorist content across the internet, companies have invested in collaborating and sharing expertise with one another. GIFCT's knowledge-sharing work has grown quickly in large measure because companies recognize that in countering terrorism online we face many of the same challenges. Although our companies have been sharing best practices around counterterrorism for several years, in recent months GIFCT has provided a more formal structure to accelerate and strengthen this work. In collaboration with the Tech Against Terror initiative — which recently launched a Knowledge Sharing Platform with the support of GIFCT and the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate — we have held workshops for smaller tech companies in order to share best practices on how to disrupt the spread of violent extremist content online. Our initial goal for 2017 was to work with 50 smaller tech companies to to share best practices on how to disrupt the spread of violent extremist material. We have exceeded that goal, engaging with 68 companies over the past several months through workshops in San Francisco, New York, and Jakarta, plus another workshop next week in Brussels on the sidelines of the EU Internet Forum. We recognize that our work is far from done, but we are confident that we are heading in the right direction. We will continue to provide updates as we forge new partnerships and develop new technology in the face of this global challenge [...]At last year's EU Internet Forum meeting, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube committed to curbing the spread of terrorist content online, working together as the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). Building on work started at the EU Internet Forum, we have created a shared industry hash database, which enables us to share “digital fingerprints” that help us identify and remove terrorist content from our respective platforms.

Defending access to lawful information at Europe’s highest courtDefending access to lawful information at Europe’s highest courtSVP and General Counsel

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:00:00 -0000

Under the right to be forgotten, Europeans can ask for information about themselves to be removed from search results for their name if it is outdated, or irrelevant. From the outset, we have publicly stated our concerns about the ruling, but we have still worked hard to comply—and to do so conscientiously and in consultation with Data Protection Authorities. To date, we’ve handled requests to delist nearly 2 million search results in Europe, removing more than 800,000 of them. We have also taken great care not to erase results that are clearly in the public interest, as the European Court of Justice directed. Most Data Protection Authorities have concluded that this approach strikes the right balance.But two right to be forgotten cases now in front of the European Court of Justice threaten that balance.In the first case, four individuals—who we can’t name—present an apparently simple argument: European law protects sensitive personal data; sensitive personal data includes information about your political beliefs or your criminal record; so all mentions of criminality or political affiliation should automatically be purged from search results, without any consideration of public interest.If the Court accepted this argument, it would give carte blanche to people who might wish to use privacy laws to hide information of public interest—like a politician’s political views, or a public figure’s criminal record. This would effectively erase the public’s right to know important information about people who represent them in society or provide them services.In the second case, the Court must decide whether Google should enforce the right to be forgotten not just in Europe, but in every country around the world. We—and a wide range of human rights and media organizations, and others, like Wikimedia—believe that this runs contrary to the basic principles of international law: no one country should be able to impose its rules on the citizens of another country, especially when it comes to linking to lawful content. Adopting such a rule would encourage other countries, including less democratic regimes, to try to impose their values on citizens in the rest of the world.We’re speaking out because restricting access to lawful and valuable information is contrary to our mission as a company and keeps us from delivering the comprehensive search service that people expect of us.But the threat is much greater than this. These cases represent a serious assault on the public’s right to access lawful information.We will argue in court for a reasonable interpretation of the right to be forgotten and for the ability of countries around the world to set their own laws, not have those of others imposed on them. Up to November 20, European countries and institutions have the chance to make their views known to the Court. And we encourage everyone who cares about public access to information to stand up and fight to preserve it. [...]We will argue in court for a reasonable interpretation of the right to be forgotten and for the ability of countries around the world to set their own laws, not have those of others imposed on them.

Security and disinformation in the U.S. 2016 electionSecurity and disinformation in the U.S. 2016 electionSVP and General CounselDirector, Law Enforcement and Information Security

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 22:58:00 -0000

We’ve seen many types of efforts to abuse Google’s services over the years. And, like other internet platforms, we have found some evidence of efforts to misuse our platforms during the 2016 U.S. election by actors linked to the Internet Research Agency in Russia. 

Preventing the misuse of our platforms is something that we take very seriously; it’s a major focus for our teams. We’re committed to finding a way to stop this type of abuse, and to working closely with governments, law enforcement, other companies, and leading NGOs to promote electoral integrity and user security, and combat misinformation. 

We have been conducting a thorough investigation related to the U.S. election across our products drawing on the work of our information security team, research into misinformation campaigns from our teams, and leads provided by other companies. Today, we are sharing results from that investigation. While we have found only limited activity on our services, we will continue to work to prevent all of it, because there is no amount of interference that is acceptable.

We will be launching several new initiatives to provide more transparency and enhance security, which we also detail in these information sheets: what we found, steps against phishing and hacking, and our work going forward

Our work doesn’t stop here, and we’ll continue to investigate as new information comes to light. Improving transparency is a good start, but we must also address new and evolving threat vectors for misinformation and attacks on future elections. We will continue to do our best to help people find valuable and useful information, an essential foundation for an informed citizenry and a robust democratic process.

(image) We have been conducting a thorough investigation related to the U.S. election across our products. Today, we are sharing results from that investigation.

Towards a future of work that works for everyoneTowards a future of work that works for everyonePublic Policy Director Northern Europe

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 09:00:00 -0000

The future of work concerns us all. Our grandchildren will have jobs that don’t yet exist, and will live lives we cannot imagine. In Europe, getting the future of work right for individuals, societies and industries means having an open debate about the possibilities right now. We want to be a part of that discussion, and help contribute to a future of work that works for everyone. So last week in Stockholm and The Hague we brought together a range of leading international experts from academia, trade unions, public sector and businesses to discuss the impact of technology on jobs. We also worked with McKinsey on a report on the impact of automation on work, jobs and skills.As advances in machine learning and robotics make headlines, there’s a heated debate about whether innovation is a magic fix for an aging workforce, or a fast track to mass unemployment. Data can illuminate that debate, and McKinsey focused their research on the Nordics, Benelux, Ireland and Estonia—a diverse group which have at least one thing in common: They’re Europe’s digital frontrunners. The report from McKinsey shows us that while automation will impact existing jobs, innovation and adopting new technology can increase the total number of jobs available.The report makes it very clear that divergent paths are possible. To make a success of the digital transition, countries should promote adoption of new technologies and double down on skills training and education. We want to play our part here. One example of how we contribute is our program Digitalakademin in Sweden: So far, we’ve trained more than 20,000 people in small- and medium-sized business in digital skills. And together with the Swedish National Employment Agency we’ve developed training to help unemployed people get the skills necessary for the jobs of the future.As Erik Sandström from the National Employment Agency stressed at our event in Stockholm, it “all starts with digital competence—if you’re lacking in digital competence you will overestimate the risks and underestimate the opportunities.” That sentiment was echoed in a keynote by Ylva Johansson, the Swedish Minister for Employment and Integration: “Why do we have an attitude where unions, employees are positively accepting ongoing changes? Because we’ve been able to protect people and to present new opportunities through reskilling.”For our event in The Hague we partnered with Dutch company Randstad to discuss the same topic of future of work. Their CEO, Jacques van den Broek, struck an optimistic tone: “The digital transformation is an opportunity, not a threat,” he said. “The lesson we’ve learned is that whilst some jobs disappear, tech creates jobs. The longer you wait to embrace that change, the longer it takes to be able to compete.”The coming changes will likely affect a wide range of tasks and jobs. “In Denmark, we discussed the destruction of jobs,” Thomas Søby from the Danish Steelworkers Union said. “New ones are created,” he added. “But some people will lose their jobs and feel left behind, and as a society we need to take care of those people.”Those new jobs aren’t simply replacements—they’re roles we don’t have yet. “In a few years something else will be hot,” said Aart-Jan de Geus of Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German private foundation which looks at managing future challenges. He stressed that fears about job losses shouldn’t be overstated, especially as consumer demand and spending won’t go away. “The big mistake would be to try to protect jobs; we need to protect workers.”In The Hague, Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s executive chairman, ended on a positive note, saying that anxiety about change was understandable but that society can make sure the digital transition includes everyone. “Incumbents resist change. This is not new and in fact we have seen it [...]Towards a future of work that works for everyone

Media Files:

Updating our Transparency Report and electronic privacy lawsUpdating our Transparency Report and electronic privacy lawsDirector, Law Enforcement and Information Security

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 16:22:00 -0000

Today, we are releasing the latest version of our Transparency Report concerning government requests for user data. This includes government requests for user data in criminal cases, as well as national security matters under U.S. law. Google fought for the right to publish this information in court and before Congress, and we continue to believe that this type of transparency can inform the broader debate about the nature and scope of government surveillance laws and programs.In the first half of 2017, worldwide, we received 48,941 government requests that relate to 83,345 accounts. You can see more detailed figures, including a country-by-country breakdown of requests, here. We’ve also posted updated figures for the number of users/accounts impacted by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests for content in previous reporting periods. While the total number of FISA content requests was reported accurately, we inadvertently under-reported the user/account figures in some reporting periods and over-reported the user/account figures in the second half of 2010. The corrected figures are in the latest report and reflected on our visible changes page.Updating Electronic Privacy LawsWe are publishing the latest update to our Transparency Report as the U.S. Congress embarks upon an important debate concerning the nature and scope of key FISA provisions. Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 expires at the end of 2017. This is the section of FISA that authorizes the U.S. government to compel service providers like Google to disclose user data (including communications content) about non-U.S. persons in order to acquire “foreign intelligence information.”Earlier this year, we expressed support for specific reforms to Section 702. We continue to believe that Congress can enact reforms to Section 702 in a way that enhances privacy protection for internet users while protecting national security. Independent bodies have concluded that Section 702 is valuable and effective in protecting national security and producing useful foreign intelligence. These assessments, however, do not preclude reforms that improve privacy protections for U.S. and non-U.S. persons and that do not disturb the core purposes of Section 702.Government access laws are due for a fundamental realignment and update in light of the proliferation of technology, the very real security threats to people, and the expectations of privacy that Internet users have in their communications. Our General Counsel, Kent Walker, delivered a speech earlier this year calling for a new framework to address cross-border law enforcement requests. Updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) will be necessary to create a legal framework that addresses both law enforcement and civil liberties concerns.The recent introduction of the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA) in the Senate and the House is a significant step in the right direction, and we applaud Senators Hatch, Coons, and Heller and Representatives Collins, Jeffries, Issa, and DeBene for their leadership on this important bill. ECPA should also be updated to enable countries that commit to baseline privacy, due process, and human rights principles to make direct requests to U.S. providers. Providing a pathway for such countries to obtain electronic evidence directly from service providers in other jurisdictions will remove incentives for the unilateral, extraterritorial assertion of a country’s laws, data localization proposals, aggressive expansion of government access authorities, and dangerous investigative techniques. These measures ultimately weaken privacy, due process, and human rights standards.We look forward to continuing in the constructive discussion about these issues. [...]We are publishing the latest update to our Transparency Report as [...]

Media Files:

Working together to combat terrorists onlineWorking together to combat terrorists onlineSVP and General Counsel

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 21:20:00 -0000

Editor’s note:This is a revised and abbreviated version of a speech Kent delivered today at the United Nations in New York City, NY, on behalf of the members of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. Updated October 3, 2017 to include additional excerpts from the speech.The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism is a group of four technology companies—Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube—that are committed to working together and with governments and civil society to address the problem of online terrorist content.For our companies, terrorism isn’t just a business concern or a technical challenge. These are deeply personal threats. We are citizens of London, Paris, Jakarta, and New York. And in the wake of each terrorist attack we too frantically check in on our families and co-workers to make sure they are safe. We’ve all had to do this far too often.The products that our companies build lower barriers to innovation and empower billions of people around the world. But we recognize that the internet and other tools have also been abused by terrorists in their efforts to recruit, fundraise, and organize. And we are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that our platforms aren't used to distribute terrorist material.The Forum’s efforts are focused on three areas: leveraging technology, conducting research on patterns of radicalization and misuse of online platforms, and sharing best practices to accelerate our joint efforts against dangerous radicalization. Let me say more about each pillar.First, when it comes to technology, you should know that our companies are putting our best talent and technology against the task of getting terrorist content off our services. There is no silver bullet when it comes to finding and removing this content, but we’re getting much better.One early success in collaboration has been our “hash sharing” database, which allows a company that discovers terrorist content on one of their sites to create a digital fingerprint and share it with the other companies in the coalition, who can then more easily detect and review similar content for removal.  We have to deal with these problems at tremendous scale. The haystacks are unimaginably large and the needles are both very small and constantly changing. People upload over 400 hours of content to YouTube every minute. Our software engineers have spent years developing technology that can spot certain telltale cues and markers. In recent months we have more than doubled the number of videos we've removed for violent extremism and have located these videos twice as fast. And what’s more, 75 percent of the violent extremism videos we’ve removed in recent months were found using technology before they received a single human flag.These efforts are working. Between August 2015 and June 2017, Twitter suspended more than 935,000 accounts for the promotion of terrorism. During the first half of 2017, over 95 percent of the accounts it removed were detected using its in-house technology. Facebook is using new advances in artificial intelligence to root out "terrorist clusters" by mapping out the pages, posts, and profiles with terrorist material and then shutting them down.Despite this recent progress, machines are simply not at the stage where they can replace human judgment. For example, portions of a terrorist video in a news broadcast might be entirely legitimate, but a computer program will have difficulty distinguishing documentary coverage from incitement.  We continue to speed up removals and are committed to working together to find new ways to quickly get this content off our platforms. We are making significant progress, but removing all of this content within a few hours—or indeed stopping it from appearing on the internet in the first place—p[...]

Google’s fight against human traffickingGoogle’s fight against human traffickingVice President

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 20:40:00 -0000

Google has made it a priority to tackle the heinous crime of sex trafficking. I know, because I’ve worked on this from the day I joined in 2012. We have hired and funded advocates in this area. We have developed and built extensive technology to connect victims with the resources they need. And we have helped pioneer the use of technologies that identify trafficking networks to make it easier and quicker for law enforcement to arrest these abusers. You can read about these efforts here. We’ve supported over 40 bills on human trafficking. And we are determined to do more to stop this evil, including support for tougher legislation. There is currently a debate over a proposed bill to combat sex trafficking by amending section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. While we agree with the intentions of the bill, we are concerned that it erodes the “good samaritan” protection and would actually hinder the fight against sex trafficking. While large companies are more likely to continue their proactive enforcement efforts and can afford to fight lawsuits, if smaller platforms are made liable for “knowledge” of human trafficking occurring on their platforms, there is a risk that some will seek to avoid that “knowledge”; they will simply stop looking for it. This would be a disaster. We think it’s much better to foster an environment in which all technology companies can continue to clean their platforms and support effective tools for law enforcement and advocacy organizations to find and disrupt these networks. We’ve met with the sponsors of the particular bill and provided alternatives that will encourage this environment, and we’ll continue to seek a constructive approach to advance a shared goal.We’re not alone in this view. Organizations as broad and diverse as Engine Advocacy, PEN America, Charles Koch Institute, Heritage Action, ACLU, U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center, Business Software Alliance, Internet Commerce Coalition, Internet Association (whose members include Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Snap,, Pinterest, etc.), TechFreedom, Medium, GitHub, Reddit, Wikimedia, National Venture Capital Association and many others have raised concerns about the bill. We—and many others—stand ready to work with Congress on changes to the bill, and on other legislation and measures to fight human trafficking and protect and support victims and survivors.A lot of the discussion around this issue focuses on the role of a website called I want to make our position on this clear. Google believes that can and should be held accountable for its crimes. We strongly applaud the work of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in exposing Backpage's intentional promotion of child sex trafficking through ads. Based on those findings, Google believes that should be criminally prosecuted by the US Department of Justice for facilitating child sex trafficking, something they can do today without need to amend any laws. And years before the Senate's investigation and report, we prohibited Backpage from advertising on Google, and we have criticized Backpage publicly.I understand that when important legislation is being discussed, public debate is robust. That’s how it should be. But on the crucial issue of sex trafficking, we’ve been a deeply committed partner in the fight. Let’s not let a genuine disagreement over the likely unintended impact of a particular piece of legislation obscure that fact. [...]

A significant step toward modernizing our surveillance lawsA significant step toward modernizing our surveillance lawsDirector, Law Enforcement and Information Security

Thu, 27 Jul 2017 23:00:00 -0000

Last month, our General Counsel Kent Walker delivered a speech calling for a fundamental realignment of government access statutes in light of the growing role that technology plays in our daily lives, the expectation that communications should remain private, and the very real security threats that governments need to investigate.

In conjunction with the speech, we proposed a new framework oriented toward policy solutions that recognize legitimate law enforcement interests, respect the sovereignty of other countries, and reflect the reasonable expectation of privacy that users have in the content of their electronic communications.

The introduction of the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA) by Senators Hatch, Coons, and Heller advances these objectives, and we commend these Senators for their leadership in this area.

ICPA would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) in two important ways.

First, it would require U.S. government entities to obtain a warrant to compel the production of communications content from providers.  For many years, we have called upon the U.S. Congress to update ECPA in this manner, and the House of Representative has twice passed legislation (the Email Privacy Act) that would achieve this goal.

Second, it provides clear mechanisms for the U.S. government to obtain user data from service providers with a warrant, wherever the data may be stored, but with protections built in for certain cases when the users are nationals of other countries and are located outside the U.S.

We are eager to work with Members of Congress enact ICPA into law, and look forward to the opportunity to help advance this important bill.


Applications now open for the Google Policy Fellowship in Europe and AfricaApplications now open for the Google Policy Fellowship in Europe and AfricaSenior Manager, Public Policy EMEA

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 14:00:00 -0000

Are you an undergraduate, graduate or law student interested in internet and technology policy? Do you want to get involved in the public dialogue on these issues? If so, the new Google Policy Fellowship pilot programs in Italy, Belgium (Brussels), and three African countries may be for you.  Successful applicants to the program will have the opportunity to work at public interest organizations at the forefront of debates on internet policy issues. They will be assigned a mentor at their host organizations and will have the opportunity to work with senior staff members.Fellows will be expected to make substantive contributions to the work of their organization, including conducting policy research and analysis, drafting reports and white papers, attending government and industry meetings and conferences, and participating in other advocacy activities.The work of the fellows is decided between the individuals and the organizations. Google provides a small stipend during the period of the fellowship, but has no involvement in defining or conducting the research. Typically, the fellows are postgraduates and they work with the organization on an area of research or study.For example, in previous years, a fellow with the Strathmore Law School in Nairobi, Kenya, carried out a review of cyber-security conventions around the world, and a fellow at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT in Ghana helped to establish the Creative Commons chapter for Ghana before returning to university to finish her Ph.D. All work is carried out independently of Google.Who should apply?The organisations in the program are looking for students who are passionate about technology, and want to gain experience of working on public policy. Students from all majors and degree programs who possess the following qualities are encouraged to apply:Demonstrated or stated interest in Internet and technology policyExcellent academic record, professional/extracurricular/volunteer activities, subject matter expertiseFirst-rate analytical, communications, research, and writing skillsAbility to manage multiple projects simultaneously and efficiently, and to work smartly and resourcefully in a fast-paced environmentBrussels pilotWe are pleased to offer three fellowships, starting in September 2017, at the organizations listed below. These placements will run for six months and the stipend will vary slightly from organization to organization. To apply, please use the link below and send a short email, together with a CV. Deadline for applications is July 31, 2017.European Disabilities Forum: Contact Alejandro Moledo alejandro.moledo@edf-feph.orgEuropean Women’s Lobby: Contact  Emily Usher Usher@womenlobby.orgEuropean Youth Forum: Contact John Lisney john.lisney@youthforum.orgItaly pilotWe’re pleased to offer six fellowships, starting in October 2017, and lasting up to six months, at the organizations listed below. To apply, please send a short email to the address below, together with a CV. Deadline for applications is August 27, 2017. Accademia Italiana del Codice di Internet  Contact info@iaic.itAREL - Agenzia di Ricerche e Legislazione Contact googlefellowship@arel.itmailto:arel@arel.itAssociazione Sole Luna - Un ponte tra le culture: Contact info@solelunadoc.orgFormiche: Contact - Istituto per la competitività Contact info@i-com.itIstituto Bruno Leoni: Contact info@brunoleoni.orgAfrica programWe’re pleased to offer eight fellowships, starting from late August 2017, across Sub-Saharan Africa. The program will run for six to twelve months, with exact duration varying by organization. Detailed job descriptions can be viewed here. To apply, please complete the form at 2017 Africa Google Pol[...]

Media Files:

A new look for our Transparency ReportA new look for our Transparency ReportProduct Lead, Google Transparency Report

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 15:23:00 -0000

In 2010, we launched the government requests tool, a new way to publicly document government requests for user data and content removals. It was the first report of its kind and a natural extension of our mission to make information accessible and useful. In the years since, our simple tool evolved into the Transparency Report, a multifaceted snapshot of the ways governments and corporations affect online security, privacy, and the free flow of information.The web has evolved too, and has become central to people’s lives: 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, more than one billion people rely on Gmail and Chrome, every day. And this type reporting, once an anomaly, has become the norm across the tech industry and beyond. More than 40 companies now have transparency reports; that’s great news for people everywhere.But while the report itself expanded in scope and coverage, its design remained largely unchanged. Not only was it due for a little update, we heard from users it could be easier to navigate as well.So today we’re introducing the completely revamped Transparency Report. It features clearer data visualizations, more context for the data, a Recent Updates section so you can see what’s new, and a better way to download data from our most popular reports. And while the previous version was a patchwork of different reports, designed at different times in different styles, our new report is all one consistent design, making it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for.Old SiteNew Site 1New Site 2We’re continuing to invest in this report because we’ve seen firsthand how it can help inform and shape the public debate about information online. The data also acts as a lens into significant moments in the history of the web, fundamental changes to security, and our efforts to be transparent about data and how it is used. Here are a few examples:Our Traffic and Disruptions report documents real-time disruptions to usage of our products. Here’s what the report looked like for search in Egypt in January of 2011 when internet access was restricted during the Arab Spring.As we say in the report, “when you send or receive emails from a provider that doesn’t encrypt messages in transit, they are as open to snoopers as a postcard in the mail.” In 2014, we started reporting on the state of email encryption across the industry and which providers offer this protection. It’s been really encouraging to see how these trends have changed. Since then, outbound email encryption has gone from 73 percent to 88 percent., and inbound email encryption has gone from 61 percent to 88 percent since the launch of the report as well. We hope these numbers continue to increase in the years ahead.And going back to the report’s original mission—government requests—we’re constantly pushing for more complete and accurate data. The results of this effort are visible directly in the report. In December 2016, for example, after a years-long effort, we were able to share National Security Letters with the public, for the first time.Over the years, the Transparency Report has sparked new conversations about transparency, accountability and the role of governments and companies in the flow of information online. Our hope is that with these changes, we can start a few more. [...]Today we’re introducing the completely revamped Transparency Report, with clearer charts, more context for the data, a Recent Updates section, a better way to download data, and a fresh design.

Net Neutrality Day of Action: Help preserve the open internetNet Neutrality Day of Action: Help preserve the open internetEditor-in-Chief

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 10:00:00 -0000

Editor's note:Today is the Net Neutrality Day of Action, and we’re sending this email to Take Action, our community focused on issues that are important to the future of the internet. We wanted to share it more broadly so everyone can see how to get involved.

The net neutrality rules that protect the open internet are in danger of being dismantled.

Internet companies, innovative startups, and millions of internet users depend on these common-sense protections that prevent blocking or throttling of internet traffic, segmenting the internet into paid fast lanes and slow lanes, and other discriminatory practices. Thanks in part to net neutrality, the open internet has grown to become an unrivaled source of choice, competition, innovation, free expression, and opportunity. And it should stay that way.

Today’s open internet ensures that both new and established services, whether offered by an established internet company like Google, a broadband provider, or a small startup, have the same ability to reach users on an equal playing field.

It’s an important chapter in this debate, and we hope you’ll make your voice heard.

Tell everyone that you want to keep the Internet free and open.

Google and many others are joining together to call on the FCC to preserve the open internet, and we encourage you to act too!

Together, we can make our voices heard and we can make a difference.

To find out more, including how to share your views with the FCC, visit

(image) Google and many others are joining together to call on the FCC to preserve the open internet. Together, we can make our voices heard and we can make a difference.

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Responding to the “Campaign for Accountability” report on academic researchResponding to the “Campaign for Accountability” report on academic researchDirector of Public Policy

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 18:00:00 -0000

Today the Campaign for Accountability released a report about our funding of academic research.   It claims to list hundreds of papers we’ve “in some way funded.”  The report is highly misleading. For example, the report attributes to Google any work that was supported by any organization to which we belong or have ever donated (such as CCIA).Nevertheless, we’re proud to maintain strong relations with academics, universities and research institutes, in our own name, so we wanted to take a few moments to respond to the report.We run many research programs that provide funding and resources to the external research community. This helps public and private institutions pursue research on important topics in computer science, technology, and a wide range of public policy and legal issues. Our support for the principles underlying an open internet is shared by many academics and institutions who have a long history of undertaking research on these topics—across important areas like copyright, patents, and free expression. We provide support to help them undertake further research, and to raise awareness of their ideas.These programs (and those run by other companies) augment the government and university-funded research that is the backbone of academic discourse in the United States.We also run policy fellowship programs. Most other companies do this too; the difference with Google is that we list ours publicly on our policy website.Our funding is guided by these principles:Disclosure requirements:When we provide financial support, we expect and require grantees to properly disclose our funding. If there are ever omissions or unclear disclosures, we work to tighten our requirements.Independence:We value academic independence and integrity. We offer grants for discrete pieces of research, not to shape academics’ subsequent scholarship. The researchers and institutions to whom we award research grants will often publish research with which we disagree. In fact, many of the academics listed by the Campaign for Accountability have criticized Google and our policy positions heavily on a variety of topics. Here are just three of the academics on their list, opposing and arguing against us on antitrust, net neutrality and privacy.The irony of discussing disclosures and transparency with the “Campaign for Accountability” is that this group consistently refuses to name its corporate funders.  And those backers won’t ‘fess up either.  The one funder the world does know about is Oracle, which is running a well-documented lobbying campaign against us. In its own name and through proxies, Oracle has funded many hundreds of articles, research papers, symposia and reports. Oracle is not alone—you can easily find similar activity by companies and organizations funded by our competitors, like AT&T, the MPAA, ICOMP, FairSearch and dozens more; including hundreds of pieces directly targeting Google.We’re proud of our programs and their integrity. The “Campaign for Accountability” and its funders are, clearly, not proud of theirs. [...]

The European Commission decision on online shopping: the other side of the storyThe European Commission decision on online shopping: the other side of the storySVP and General Counsel

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 10:15:00 -0000

When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily. And advertisers want to promote those same products. That's why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.We believe the European Commission’s online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data shows that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches.We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay.When the Commission asks why some comparison websites have not done as well as others, we think it should consider the many sites that have grown in this period--including platforms like Amazon and eBay. With its comparison tools, reviews, millions of retailers, and vast range of products from sneakers to groceries, Amazon is a formidable competitor and has become the first port of call for product searches.  And as Amazon has grown, it’s natural that some comparison services have proven less popular than others. We compete with Amazon and other sites for shopping-related searches by showing ever more useful product information.When you use Google to search for products, we try to give you what you’re looking for. Our ability to do that well isn’t favoring ourselves, or any particular site or seller--it’s the result of hard work and constant innovation, based on user feedback.Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case. When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily. And merchants want to promote those same products. That's why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.[...]

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Digital security and due process: A new legal framework for the cloud eraDigital security and due process: A new legal framework for the cloud eraSVP & General Counsel

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 09:00:00 -0000

Editor’s note: This is an abbreviated version of a speech Kent delivered today at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.For as long as we’ve had legal systems, prosecutors and police have needed to gather evidence. And for each new advance in communications, law enforcement has adapted. With the advent of the post office, police got warrants to search letters and packages. With the arrival of telephones, police served subpoenas for the call logs of suspects. Digital communications have now gone well beyond the Postal Service and Ma Bell. But the laws that govern evidence-gathering on the internet were written before the Information Revolution, and are now both hindering the flow of information to law enforcement and jeopardizing user privacy as a result.These rules are due for a fundamental realignment in light of the rapid growth of technology that relies on the cloud, the very real security threats that face people and communities, and the expectations of privacy that internet users have in their communications.Today, we’re proposing a new framework that allows countries that commit to baseline privacy, human rights, and due process principles to gather evidence more quickly and efficiently. We believe these reforms would not only help law enforcement conduct more effective investigations but also encourage countries to improve and align on privacy and due process standards. Further, reducing the amount of time countries have to wait to gather evidence means would reduce the pressure to pursue more problematic ways of trying to gather data.Current laws hinder law enforcement and user privacyThe U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) governs requests for content from law enforcement. Under ECPA, foreign countries largely have to rely on diplomatic mechanisms such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) to obtain content that is held by a company in the United States. The last data we’ve seen suggests that the average wait to receive content through the MLAT process is 10 months, far too long for most criminal cases. While law enforcement waits for this data, crimes could remain unsolved or a trial might happen missing key evidence.The current legal framework poses a threat to users’ privacy as well. Faced with the extended delays under the MLAT process, some countries are now asserting that their laws apply to companies and individuals outside of their borders. Countries asserting extraterritorial authority potentially put companies in an untenable situation where we risk violating either the law of the requesting country or the law of the country where we are headquartered.We are also seeing various proposals to require companies to store data within local borders as a means to gain easier access. There are a host of problems with this: small, one-off data centers are easier targets for attackers and jeopardize data security and privacy. Further, requiring businesses to build these data-centers will raise the costs for cloud services, erecting significant barriers for smaller companies.The legal ambiguity concerning cross-border law enforcement requests has also created complications for law enforcement in the United States. Last year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was asked to determine the reach of ECPA search warrants issued under the now out-of-date statute. The Court ruled that under existing law, an ECPA search warrant cannot be used to compel service providers to disclose user data that is stored outside of the U.S. But even those judges agreed that ECPA should be updated by Congress to reflect the new reality of today’[...]

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An international framework for digital evidenceAn international framework for digital evidenceSenior Vice President and General Counsel

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 18:00:00 -0000

Today, we’re releasing the latest version of our Transparency Report regarding government requests for user data. In the second half of 2016, we received over 45,000 government requests for user data worldwide. This is the most government requests we’ve received for user data in a six-month period since we released our first transparency report in 2010.In many ways, this shouldn’t be surprising. As more people use more of our services, and as we offer new ones, it is natural that we are seeing an increase in government requests. For example, Gmail had around 425 million active users in 2012, and more than 1 billion by 2016. And as digital evidence increasingly becomes part of criminal investigations, other companies are seeing similar trends. We of course continue to require appropriate legal process for these requests, resist overbroad requests not narrowly calibrated to legitimate law enforcement requirements, and reform modernization of data surveillance laws.  Cross-border requests for data continue to account for a substantial portion of overall requests, with over 31,000 in the second half of 2016 coming from outside of the United States.. This volume underscores the need for an improved international framework that meets legitimate law enforcement needs and ensures high standards of due process, privacy and human rights. The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process facilitates the production of digital evidence in cross-border investigations (when the crime occurs in one country but data is held by a company in another country). But the MLAT process is often slow and cumbersome: on average, it takes 10 months to process an MLAT request in the United States. That’s a long time for an investigator to wait.Without better and faster ways to collect cross-border evidence, countries will be tempted to take unilateral actions to deal with a fundamentally multilateral problem. A sustainable framework for handling digital evidence in legitimate cross-border investigations will help avoid a chaotic, conflicting patchwork of data location proposals and ad hoc surveillance measures that may threaten privacy and generate uncertainty, without fundamentally advancing legitimate law enforcement and national security interests.We believe that governments can develop solutions that appropriately balance the various interests at stake. This includes respecting the legitimate privacy rights of users, wherever they are, as well as the obligations of governments to investigate crimes and protect their residents. The conversation should include a broad group of stakeholders, including not just law enforcement and national security perspectives, but also the voices of citizens, civil society groups and providers of information services that cross national borders.This discussion will raise difficult questions about the scope of government surveillance powers, the extent of digital jurisdiction, the importance of rapid investigations, and privacy rights in the Internet age—fundamental issues that can’t be adequately addressed by courts using antiquated legal standards or by governments acting in an ad hoc fashion.We look forward to sharing more thoughts about the legal frameworks that can address some of these challenges in the coming weeks and months. And we look forward to working with relevant stakeholders to craft viable and lasting solutions.   [...]Today, we’re releasing the latest version of our Transparency Report regarding government requests for user data.

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Introducing PAX: the Android Networked Cross-License AgreementIntroducing PAX: the Android Networked Cross-License AgreementVP, Business & Operations, Android and Google Play

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 05:00:00 -0000

In Latin, the word pax means “peace.” In the world of intellectual property, patent peace often coincides with innovation and healthy competition that benefit consumers. It is with a hope for such benefits that we are announcing our newest patent licensing initiative focusing on patent peace, which we call PAX.  Under PAX, members grant each other royalty-free patent licenses covering Android and Google Applications on qualified devices. This community-driven clearinghouse, developed together with our Android partners, ensures that innovation and consumer choice—not patent threats—will continue to be key drivers of our Android ecosystem. PAX is free to join and open to anyone.Already, Android is distributed under open-source licenses that allow anyone to use it for free. This openness has resulted in enormous choice for manufacturers and users. The Android ecosystem has grown to include more than 400 partner manufacturers and 500 carriers who have produced more than 4,000 major devices in the last year alone with an astounding 1.6 billion active users. We believe PAX will further expand the openness of Android for its members, promoting patent peace that will free up time and money for members, who can then dedicate those resources to creating new ideas.PAX members currently include Google, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Foxconn Technology Group, HMD Global, HTC, Coolpad, BQ, and Allview. The members collectively own more than 230,000 patents worldwide. As more companies join, PAX will bring even more patent peace and value to its members through more freedom to innovate.  PAX is the latest innovative licensing effort that Google has helped develop in order to provide balanced patent solutions. Other efforts include the LOT Network and the Open Patent Non-assertion Pledge, as well as our participation in such initiatives as the Open Invention Network and IP3 run by Allied Security Trust. Initiatives like these—and PAX—are among the many ways Google contributes to fair and balanced patent systems across an interconnected world.  We encourage interested companies, large and small, around the world to join us in PAX and enjoy patent peace. To learn more, please visit the PAX website. [...]This community-driven clearinghouse, developed together with our Android partners, ensures that innovation and consumer choice—not patent threats—will continue to be key drivers of our Android ecosystem.

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