Public Policy Blog
Updates on technology policy issues
An update on our AdMob acquisition
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Posted by Paul Feng, Group Product Manager
Since we announced our
to acquire AdMob, we've been excited about the
-- particularly from advertisers and publishers who have told us that they're enthusiastic about the possibilities for how the combination of AdMob and Google can improve the effectiveness of mobile display advertising.
when we announced the deal, we don't see any regulatory issues with this deal, because the rapidly growing mobile advertising space is highly competitive with more than a dozen mobile ad networks.
That said, we know that closer scrutiny has been one consequence of Google's success, and we've been talking to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the past few weeks. This week we received what's called a "second request," which means that the FTC is asking for more information so that they can continue to review the deal.
While this means we won't be closing right away, we're confident that the FTC will conclude that the rapidly growing mobile advertising space will remain highly competitive after this deal closes. And we'll be working closely and cooperatively with them as they continue their review.
The meaning of open
Monday, December 21, 2009
Posted by Jonathan Rosenberg, Senior Vice President, Product Management
Last week I sent an email to Googlers about the meaning of "open" as it relates to the Internet, Google, and our users. In the spirit of openness, I thought it would be appropriate to share these thoughts with those outside of Google as well.
At Google we believe that open systems win. They lead to more innovation, value, and freedom of choice for consumers, and a vibrant, profitable, and competitive ecosystem for businesses. Many companies will claim roughly the same thing since they know that declaring themselves to be open is both good for their brand and completely without risk. After all, in our industry there is no clear definition of what open really means. It is a
-like term: highly subjective and vitally important.
The topic of open seems to be coming up a lot lately at Google. I've been in meetings where we're discussing a product and someone says something to the effect that we should be more open. Then a debate ensues which reveals that even though most everyone in the room believes in open we don't necessarily agree on what it means in practice.
This is happening often enough for me to conclude that we need to lay out our definition of open in clear terms that we can all understand and support. What follows is that definition based on my experiences at Google and the input of several colleagues. We run the company and make our product decisions based on these principles, so I encourage you to carefully read, review, and debate them. Then own them and try to incorporate them into your work. This is a complex subject and if there is debate (and I'm sure there will be) it should be in the open! Please feel free to comment.
There are two components to our definition of open: open technology and open information. Open technology includes open source, meaning we release and actively support code that helps grow the Internet, and open standards, meaning we adhere to accepted standards and, if none exist, work to create standards that improve the entire Internet (and not just benefit Google). Open information means that when we have information about users we use it to provide something that is valuable to them, we are transparent about what information we have about them, and we give them ultimate control over their information. These are the things we should be doing. In many cases we aren't there, but I hope that with this note we can start working to close the gap between reality and aspiration.
If we can embody a consistent commitment to open — which I believe we can — then we have a big opportunity to lead by example and encourage other companies and industries to adopt the same commitment. If they do, the world will be a better place.
Open systems win
To understand our position in more detail, it helps to start with the assertion that open systems win. This is counter-intuitive to the traditionally trained MBA who is taught to generate a sustainable competitive advantage by creating a closed system, making it popular, then milking it through the product life cycle. The conventional wisdom goes that companies should lock in customers to lock out competitors. There are different tactical approaches — razor companies make the razor cheap and the blades expensive, while the old IBM made the mainframes expensive and the software ... expensive too. Either way, a well-managed closed system can deliver plenty of profits. They can also deliver well-designed products in the short run — the iPod and iPhone being the obvious examples — but eventually innovation in a closed system tends towards being incremental at best (is a four blade razor really that much better than a three blade one?) because the whole point is to preserve the status quo. Complacency is the hallmark of any closed system. If you don't have to work that hard to keep your customers, you won't.
Open systems are just the opposite. They are competitive and far more dynamic. In an open system, a competitive advantage doesn't derive from locking in customers, but rather from understanding the fast-moving system better than anyone else and using that knowledge to generate better, more innovative products. The successful company in an open system is both a fast innovator and a thought leader; the brand value of thought leadership attracts customers and then fast innovation keeps them. This isn't easy — far from it — but fast companies have nothing to fear, and when they are successful they can generate great shareholder value.
Open systems have the potential to spawn industries. They harness the intellect of the general population and spur businesses to compete, innovate, and win based on the merits of their products and not just the brilliance of their business tactics. The race to map the human genome is one example.
In the book
, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams explain how in the mid-1990s private firms were discovering and patenting large amounts of DNA sequence data and then assuming control over who could access that information and at what price. Having so much of the genome under private ownership raised costs and made drug discovery far less efficient. Then, in 1995, Merck Pharmaceuticals and the Gene Sequencing Center at Washington University changed the game by creating a new, open initiative called the Merck Gene Index. Within three years they had published over 800,000 gene sequences into the public domain, and soon other collaborative projects followed suit. This in an industry where early stage R&D was traditionally pursued individually in closed labs, so Merck's open approach not only changed the culture of the entire field but also accelerated the pace of biomedical research and drug development. It gave researchers everywhere unrestricted access to an open resource of genetic information.
Another way to look at the difference between open and closed systems is that open systems allow innovation at all levels — from the operating system to the application layer — not just at the top. This means that one company doesn't have to depend on another's benevolence to ship a product. If the
GNU C compiler
that I'm using has a bug, I can fix it since the compiler is open source. I don't have to file a bug report and hope for a timely response.
So if you are trying to grow an entire industry as broadly as possible, open systems trump closed. And that is exactly what we are trying to do with the Internet. Our commitment to open systems is not altruistic. Rather it's good business, since an open Internet creates a steady stream of innovations that attracts users and usage and grows the entire industry. Hal Varian has an equation in his book
that applies here:
Reward = (Total value added to the industry) * (Our share of industry value)
All other things being equal, a 10 percent increase in share or a 10 percent increase in industry value should lead to the same outcome. But in our industry a 10 percent increase in industry value will yield a much bigger reward because it will stimulate economies of scale across the entire industry, increasing productivity and reducing costs for all competitors. As long as we contribute a steady stream of great products we will prosper along with the entire ecosystem. We may get a smaller piece, but it will come from a bigger pie.
In other words, Google's future depends on the Internet staying an open system, and our advocacy of open will grow the web for everyone - including Google.
The definition of open starts with the technologies upon which the Internet was founded: open standards and open source software.
Networks have always depended on standards to flourish. When railroad tracks were first being laid across the U.S. in the early 19th century, there were seven different standards for track width. The network didn't flourish and expand west until the different railway companies agreed upon a standard width of 4' 8.5". (In this case the standards war was an actual war: Southern railroads were forced to convert over 11,000 miles of track to the new standard after the Confederacy lost to the Union in the Civil War.)
So there was some precedent in 1974 when Vint Cerf and his colleagues proposed using an open standard (which became
) to connect the several computer networks that had emerged around the U.S. They didn't know exactly how many networks were out there so the "Internet" — a term Vint coined — had to be open. Any network could connect using TCP/IP, and now, as a result of that decision, there are about 681 million hosts on the Internet.
Today, we base our developer products on open standards because interoperability is a critical element of user choice. What does this mean for Google Product Managers and Engineers? Simple: whenever possible, use existing open standards. If you are venturing into an area where open standards don't exist, create them. If existing standards aren't as good as they should be, work to improve them and make those improvements as simple and well documented as you can. Our top priorities should always be users and the industry at large and not just the good of Google, and you should work with standards committees to make our changes part of the accepted specification.
We have a good history of doing this. In the formative years of the
Google Data Protocol
(our standard API protocol, which is based on XML/Atom), we worked as part of the IETF Atom Protocol Working Group to shape the Atom specification. There's also our recent work with the W3C to create a standard geolocation API that will make it easy for developers to build browser-based, location-sensitive applications. This standard helps everyone, not just us, and will lead to users having access to many more compelling apps from thousands of developers.
Most of those apps will be built on open source software, a phenomenon responsible for the web's explosive growth in the past 15 years. There is a historic precedent here: while the term "open source" was coined in the late 1990s, the concept of sharing valuable information to catalyze an industry existed long before the Internet. In the early 1900s, the U.S. automobile industry instituted a cross-licensing agreement whereby patents were shared openly and freely amongst manufacturers. Prior to this agreement, the owners of the patent for the two-cycle gasoline engine had effectively bottled up the industry.
Today's open source goes far beyond the "patent pooling" of the early auto manufacturers, and has led to the development of the sophisticated software components — Linux, Apache, SSH, and others — upon which Google is built. In fact, we use tens of millions of lines of open source code to run our products. We also give back: we are the largest open source contributor in the world, contributing over 800 projects that total over 20 million lines of code to open source, with four projects (Chrome, Android, Chrome OS, and Google Web Toolkit) of over a million lines of code each. We have teams that work to support Mozilla and Apache, and an open source project hosting service (
) that hosts over 250,000 projects. These activities not only ensure that others can help us build the best products, they also mean that others can use our software as a base for their own products if we fail to innovate adequately.
When we open source our code we use standard, open
Apache 2.0 licensing
, which means we don't control the code. Others can take our open source code, modify it, close it up and ship it as their own.
is a classic example of this, as several OEMs have already taken the code and done great things with it. There are risks to this approach, however, as the software can fragment into different branches which don't work well together (remember how Unix for workstations devolved into various flavors — Apollo, Sun, HP, etc.). This is something we are working hard to avoid with Android.
While we are committed to opening the code for our developer tools, not all Google products are open source. Our goal is to keep the Internet open, which promotes choice and competition and keeps users and developers from getting locked in. In many cases, most notably our search and ads products, opening up the code would not contribute to these goals and would actually hurt users. The search and advertising markets are already highly competitive with very low switching costs, so users and advertisers already have plenty of choice and are not locked in. Not to mention the fact that opening up these systems would allow people to "game" our algorithms to manipulate search and ads quality rankings, reducing our quality for everyone.
So as you are building your product or adding new features, stop and ask yourself: Would open sourcing this code promote the open Internet? Would it spur greater user, advertiser, and partner choice? Would it lead to greater competition and innovation? If so, then you should make it open source. And when you do, do it right; don't just push it over the wall into the public realm and forget about it. Make sure you have the resources to pay attention to the code and foster developer engagement.
Google Web Toolkit
, where we have developed in the open and used a public bug tracker and source control system, is a good example of this.
The foundation of open standards and open source has led to a web where massive amounts of personal information — photos, contacts, updates — are regularly uploaded. The scale of information being shared, and the fact that it can be saved forever, creates a question that was hardly a consideration a few years ago: How do we treat this information?
Historically, new information technologies have often enabled new forms of commerce. For example, when traders in the Mediterranean region circa 3000 BC invented seals (called bullae) to ensure that their shipments reached their destinations tamper-free, they transformed commerce from local to long distance. Similar transformations were spurred by the advent of the written word, and more recently, computers. At every step of the way, the transaction, a consensual agreement where each party gets something of value, was powered by a new type of information that allowed a contract to be enforced.
On the web, the new form of commerce is the exchange of personal information for something of value. This is a transaction that millions of us participate in every day, and it has potentially great benefits. An auto insurer could monitor a customer's driving habits in real-time and give a discount for good driving — or charge a premium for speeding — powered by information (GPS tracking) that wasn't available only a few years ago. This is a fairly simple transaction, but we will encounter far more sensitive scenarios.
Let's say your child has an allergy to certain medicines. Would you allow her medical data to be accessible by a smart wireless syringe which could prevent an EMT or nurse from accidentally giving her that medicine? I would, but you might decide the metal bracelet around her wrist is sufficient. And that's the point — people can and will reach different decisions, and when it comes to their personal information we need to treat all of those decisions with equal respect.
So while having more personal information online can be quite beneficial to everyone, its uses should be guided by principles that are responsible, scalable, and flexible enough to grow and change with our industry. And unlike open technology, where our objective is to grow the Internet ecosystem, our approach to open information is to build trust with the individuals who engage within that ecosystem (users, partners, and customers). Trust is the most important currency online, so to build it we adhere to three principles of open information: value, transparency, and control.
First and foremost, we need to make products that are valuable to users. In many cases, we can make our products even better if we know more information about the user, but privacy concerns can arise if people don't understand what value they are getting in return for their information. Explain that value to them, however, and they will often agree to the transaction. For example, millions of people let credit card companies retain information on the purchases they make with their card in exchange for the convenience of not carrying around cash.
We did this well when we launched
in March. IBA makes ads more relevant and more useful. That is the extra value we create based on the information we gather. It also includes a user
that clearly explains what users are getting in exchange for their information and lets them opt out or adjust their settings. The vast majority of people who visit the preferences manager choose to adjust their settings rather than opt out because they realize the value of receiving ads customized to their interests.
This should be our default approach: tell people, in obvious, plain language, what we know about them and why it's valuable to them that we know it. Think that your product's value is so obvious that it doesn't need explaining? There's a good chance you're wrong.
Next, we need to make it easy for users to find out what information we gather and store about them across all of our products. We recently took a big step in this direction with the launch of the Google Dashboard, which is a single place where users can see what personal data is held by each Google product (covering more than 20 products including Gmail, YouTube, and Search) and control their personal settings. We are, to the best of our knowledge, the first Internet company to offer a service like this and we hope it will become the standard. Another good example is our
, which is written for humans and not just lawyers.
We can go even farther than this though. If you manage a consumer product where you collect information from your users, your product should be part of the Dashboard. If you're already there, you're not done. With every new feature or version, ask yourself if you have any additional information (maybe even information that is publicly available about users on other sites) that you can add to the Dashboard.
Think about how you can increase transparency within your product as well. When you download an Android app, for example, the device tells you what information the app will be able to access about you and your phone, and then you get to decide whether or not to proceed. You don't have to dig deep to figure out what information you are divulging - it tells you up front and lets you decide what to do. Is your product like that? How can you increase users' engagement with your product through increasing transparency?
Finally, we must always give control to the user. If we have information about a user, as with IBA, it should be easy for the user to delete that information and opt-out. If they use our products and store content with us, it's their content, not ours. They should be able to export it or delete it at any time, at no cost, and as easily as possible. Gmail is a great example of this since we offer free forwarding to any address. The ability to switch is critical, so instead of building walls around your product, build bridges. Give users real options.
If there are existing standards for handling user data, then we should adhere to them. If a standard doesn't exist, we should work to create an open one that benefits the entire web, even if a closed standard appears to be better for us (remember — it's not!). In the meantime we need to do whatever we can to make leaving Google as easy as possible. Google is not the Hotel California — you can check out any time you like and you CAN, in fact, leave!
As Eric said in his 2009 strategy memo, "we don't trap users, we make it easy for them to move to our competitors." This policy is sort of like the emergency exits on an airplane — an analogy that our pilot CEO would appreciate. You hope to never use them, but you're glad they're there and would be furious if they weren't.
That's why we have a team — the Data Liberation Front (
) — whose job it is to make "checking out" easy. Recent examples of their work include Blogger (people who choose to leave Blogger for another service can easily take their content with them) and Docs (users can now collect all their documents, presos, and spreadsheets in a zip file and download it). Build your products so that the Data Liberation team can work their magic. One way you can do this is by having a good public API that exposes all your users' data. Don't wait for v2 or v3, discuss this early in your product planning meetings and make it a feature of your product from the start.
When reporters at the Guardian, a leading UK newspaper,
reviewed the work
of the Data Liberation team they proclaimed it to be "counter-intuitive" for those "accustomed to the lock-in mentality of previous commercial battles." They are right, it is counterintuitive to people who are stuck in the old MBA way of thinking, but if we do our jobs then soon it won't be. Our goal is to make open the default. People will gravitate towards it, then they will expect and demand it and be furious when they don't get it. When open is intuitive, then we have succeeded.
When bigger is better
Closed systems are well-defined and profitable, but only for those who control them. Open systems are chaotic and profitable, but only for those who understand them well and move faster than everyone else. Closed systems grow quickly while open systems evolve more slowly, so placing your bets on open requires the optimism, will, and means to think long term. Fortunately, at Google we have all three of these.
Because of our reach, technical know-how, and lust for big projects, we can take on big challenges that require large investments and lack an obvious, near-term pay-off. We can photograph the world's streets so that you can explore the neighborhood around an apartment you are considering renting from a thousand miles away. We can scan millions of books and make them widely accessible (while respecting the rights of publishers and authors). We can create an email system that gives away a gigabyte of storage (now over 7 gigs) at a time when all other services allow only a small fraction of that amount. We can instantly translate web pages from any of 51 languages. We can process search data to help public health agencies detect flu outbreaks much earlier. We can build a faster browser (Chrome), a better mobile operating system (Android), and an entirely new communications platform (Wave), and then open them up for the world to build upon, customize, and improve.
We can do these things because they are information problems and we have the computer scientists, technology, and computational power to solve them. When we do, we make numerous platforms - video, maps, mobile, PCs, voice, enterprise - better, more competitive, and more innovative. We are often attacked for being too big, but sometimes being bigger allows us to take on the impossible.
All of this is useless, however, if we fail when it comes to being open. So we need to constantly push ourselves. Are we contributing to open standards that better the industry? What's stopping us from open sourcing our code? Are we giving our users value, transparency, and control? Open up as much as you can as often as you can, and if anyone questions whether this is a good approach, explain to them why it's not just a good approach, but the best approach. It is an approach that will transform business and commerce in this still young century, and when we are successful we will effectively re-write the MBA curriculum for the next several decades!
An open Internet transforms lives globally. It has the potential to deliver the world's information to the palm of every person and to give everyone the power of freedom of expression. These predictions were in an email I sent you earlier this year (later posted as a
) that described my vision for the future of the Internet. But now I'm talking about action, not vision. There are forces aligned against the open Internet — governments who control access, companies who fight in their own self-interests to preserve the status quo. They are powerful, and if they succeed we will find ourselves inhabiting an Internet of fragmentation, stagnation, higher prices, and less competition.
Our skills and our culture give us the opportunity and responsibility to prevent this from happening. We believe in the power of technology to deliver information. We believe in the power of information to do good. We believe that open is the only way for this to have the broadest impact for the most people. We are technology optimists who trust that the chaos of open benefits everyone. We will fight to promote it every chance we get.
Open will win. It will win on the Internet and will then cascade across many walks of life: The future of government is transparency. The future of commerce is information symmetry. The future of culture is freedom. The future of science and medicine is collaboration. The future of entertainment is participation. Each of these futures depends on an open Internet.
As Google product managers, you are building something that will outlast all of us, and none of us can imagine all the ways Google will grow and touch people's lives. In that way, we are like our colleague Vint Cerf , who didn't know exactly how many networks would want to be part of this "Internet" so he set the default to open. Vint certainly got it right. I believe we will too.
Google public policy fellowship application deadline extended
Monday, December 21, 2009
Posted by Joe Sexton, Fellowship Coordinator
We've got some good news for all you students who just finished battling final exams. Unlike those stickler professors of yours, we're offering an extension. That's right - we're pushing the
Google Policy Fellowship
application deadline back to Monday, January 25, 2010.
Take a little more time over the holiday break to learn about our outstanding
and get those applications ready. Whether you're in to expanding broadband access, modernizing copyright law, or fighting online censorship, this program might just be your ticket to an awesome summer gig.
Google's approach to privacy
Friday, December 18, 2009
Posted by Christine Chen, Manager, Global Communications and Public Affairs
Online privacy has been on a lot of people's minds lately,
. As Google has grown, it's only natural that people have questions about how we handle information.
We've talked a lot in the past about providing our users with transparency and choice in some of our products, like the "off the record" feature in Google Talk or requesting that images be removed from Google Street View. But we haven't always done a good job of talking about Google's philosophical approach to privacy overall -- or sharing our strong belief in harnessing data to create products and services that are useful for our users.
So over the past several weeks, we've been spending time with policymakers, consumer advocates, think tanks, trade associations, and journalists to chat about Google's approach to privacy. As you can see from this
, we've talked about our guiding privacy principles, explained what search logs look like, and discussed how we use data to improve our products and services.
We've also talked about three major privacy initiatives we've undertaken this past year that underscore our commitment to transparency and choice --
data liberation front
. For 2010, we're looking forward to taking even more steps to help users protect their privacy.
Setting some ambitious goals in a National Broadband Plan
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Posted by Richard Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel
One of Google's top policy priorities is spurring the availability and uptake of affordable, open broadband Internet service. The Internet may have been invented in the United States, but unfortunately in too many places
we continue to lag behind
Asia and Europe when it comes to broadband speed, penetration, and adoption.
We've been working closely with FCC staff over the past several months as they prepare to deliver a National Broadband Plan to Congress in February, and to date they've shown a strong commitment to providing the best possible blueprint for action.
As we explained in
our initial comments
, we think it's essential that in addition to instituting some constructive near-term solutions, the plan also should include some explicit, ambitious – and ultimately achievable – longer term goals for bringing ultra-high broadband speeds to all Americans. Those goals should be supported by our country's best thinking about various potential pathways to achieving them.
in a letter
to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher called on the Commission to commit to specific "stretch" goals as part of its overall plan – and we agree. Without including in the plan some future-focused benchmarks for speed and service, our nation risks losing the opportunity to make robust, nationwide broadband access a reality for American consumers.
Affordable, high-speed Internet access can drive economic growth, job creation, and education. We should not be satisfied with shorter-term fixes alone that likely will still leave us lagging behind the rest of the industrialized world.
Daniel Pearl Act
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Posted by Pablo Chavez, Managing Policy Counsel
People make their voices heard through news articles, blogs, social networking sites, tweets, emails, and other media each and every day. For some, the act of publishing news and opinion is a dangerous and sometimes deadly one that requires heroism and a deep desire to seek the facts and share their views with others. In 2009 alone, Reporters without Borders
that more than 70 journalists have been killed -- and 170 journalists and almost 100 cyberdissidents have been imprisoned.
Today, the House of Representatives has before it the
Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act
-- named after the courageous Wall Street Journal reporter who was abducted and murdered by terrorists in 2002. The Act requires the State Department to include information about freedom of the press in its annual human rights reports, which would result in raising the profile of robust and independent journalism around the world and the importance of a free media in our foreign policy.
As a company that believes deeply in free expression, we feel it's important to join the chorus of support for the bill. We congratulate Representatives Adam Schiff and Mike Pence who sponsored this bill in honor of the memory of reporters like Mr. Pearl.
Governments, companies, and individuals can and must do more to protect basic human rights as Internet access spreads and carries with it the potential for greater freedom for people around the world. We at Google are determined to continue to do our part and make new, significant contributions to promote free expression in 2010.
Concerning developments Down Under
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Posted by Bob Boorstin, Public Policy Director
Every day, around the world, an
of governments are restricting access to information online. Google faces these challenges in countries as varied as Germany, Turkey, and the People's Republic of China. And now we find ourselves facing a new threat in Australia, where the government has proposed forcing Internet Service Providers - the companies that connect users to the Internet - to filter controversial content.
While no one disagrees that illegal content - such as child pornography - must be filtered, the proposed measure in Australia threatens to go too far and could end up stifling debate on important public issues.
The power of the Internet is its free flow of information. So when a government takes the unusual, and potentially dangerous, step of considering filtering legal content, we should all take notice and freely express our concerns. Visit
Google's Australia blog
to read more about the proposed measure.
Digital Literacy Tour to launch in Fairfax, VA
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Posted by Scott Rubin, Sr. Manager, Public Policy Communications
A few weeks ago we unveiled a set of
child safety videos
and this week we're kicking off our first-ever Digital Literacy Tour in the US at
Robinson Secondary School
in Fairfax, Virginia.
With so many kids online, we want to help families learn how to navigate the Internet in a safe, responsible, and healthy way. Teens are becoming more adept at using the Internet and they're outpacing their parents and teachers. We know that sometimes adults are hesitant to discuss these topics, for fear that they know too little. That's why we think it's important to talk to the family, not just teens. Parents and educators have a tremendous opportunity to engage their kids about their online activity and need to understand what they can do to help keep their kids safe.
Google has teamed up with
, a leading online safety organization, to develop an in-class curriculum that goes along with our animated video series to bring to local communities. Topics include reading web sites for truth or fiction; online citizenship; general Internet safety; and playing and staying safe on YouTube.
This Thursday, December 17, we will be piloting the new curriculum in three separate training sessions with middle and high school students. We'll also be training a group of volunteers from the local chapter of
who will develop teen mentors to continue to deliver the program in surrounding communities. After the new year, we'll be back to discuss safety tools and tips with parents from Robinson Secondary.
If you'd like attend the Thursday event and observe a training please RSVP
. The event begins at 10am, please see the RSVP form for other important information.
We think it's essential for kids to understand how to be responsible online citizens and hope these discussions will be an important part of their education. Stay tuned as we make our way around the U.S. over the next year.
A simple way to curb climate change
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Posted by Michael Terrell, Energy Policy Counsel
People often get up in settings like the
international climate change conference
in Copenhagen and make complicated pronouncements that leave heads spinning. Today was different. Google, GE, the Climate Group, and NRDC, supported by other leading businesses and NGOs, had
a simple message
: governments across the world should ensure people have real-time access to their home energy information.
Most of us know little about how we use energy in our homes, other than what our monthy power bill tells us. Yet
show that when people can see in real-time how much energy they are using, they save up to 15% on their electricity use with simple behavioral changes, and even more with investments in energy efficiency. The savings are huge when added up: if all US households reduced 15% of their energy use by 2020 it would be equivalent to taking 35 million cars off the road and would save consumers $46 billion on their energy bills.
As 40,000 people gather in Copenhagen to fight global warming, we think that's a solution that governments should be paying attention to. This group, which will take other actions after the meeting has ended, has begun a push to give ordinary citizens the tools to save money and save the planet. A lot of the decisions on the table in Copenhagen are hard, we believe this one is simple.
Copenhagen statement signers: Google, GE, The Climate Group, NRDC, Alliance to Save Energy, Center for American Progress, Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition, Digital Energy Solutions Campaign, Dow, Energy Future Coalition, Intel, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, US Green Building Council, Whirlpool
New studies find censorship rising
Monday, December 14, 2009
Posted by Dorothy Chou, policy analyst
Last week, Dr. Ron Deibert, Director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, came to the Googleplex in Mountain View to give a presentation on the
Open Internet Initiative
on the policies and technologies that repressive governments are using to censor Internet content.
They found that Internet filtering is a growing phenomena around the world. The number of governments that censor has grown from 3 to 4 in 2002 to more than 30 countries today. And in efforts to restrict information for their citizens, governments focus more on targeting local language content rather than global content.
It's interesting that many countries that are just starting to explore the possibilities of Internet connectivity already have sophisticated tools for blocking and filtering content. We are seeing cross-border replication, where some governments are adopting the practices of others who have cracked down on their citizens. Repressive regimes are finding ways to install more advanced tools against dissidents. As Berkman Center fellow Ethan Zuckerman has said, these governments are "
" tools to co-opt Web 2.0 features rather than play catch-up after criticism has been aired.
The lack of transparency and accountability in blocking and filtering is a concern to the ONI. Often governments, even democratic ones, choose to blacklist certain sites that they deem harmful without an easy way for others to see what was blocked, so citizens never know if what's blocked is actually harmful content. In the next few years, the ONI predicts that we will see more targeted surveillance and malware tactics like spamming to make monitoring and documenting government censorship more difficult.
Given the urgency of this issue, we're hoping to bring online free expression to the forefront of policy discussions by hosting similar events at our DC office in the coming months. Stay tuned!
Open broadband data, brought to you by M-Lab
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Posted by Derek Slater, Policy Analyst
How are the performance and quality of broadband networks changing over time? How does the service experienced by users on certain networks compare against others?
(M-Lab) took another step to help answer these types of questions. Two M-Lab researchers
have publicly released
the results from over 150,000 broadband connection speed and quality tests run by users all over the world. Anyone can use the datasets without restriction, under a "no rights reserved"
Creative Commons Zero waiver.
before, M-Lab is an open server platform for researchers to deploy
broadband measurement tools
. This project is a collaborative effort led by researchers, with Google and other
partners around the world
providing additional support.
Thousands of users are now running tests every day on M-Lab, and while only results from two tools –
– are available right now, all data collected by M-Lab researchers will be released in the near future.
Amazon Web Services
is providing M-Lab with free data hosting through its
Public Data Sets program
, and M-Lab would welcome the participation of others who want to host the data and make it easier to access.
The raw data are not yet in a form that's easily intelligible to average users, but since re-use of the data is entirely unrestricted, anyone is free to analyze the information, mash it up with maps, or create other user-friendly reports. In addition, M-Lab
that tools' source code be open, so that anyone can review, understand, and build upon the testing methodologies. We think this kind of openness is critical to developing robust, reliable broadband measurement.
Google Teacher Academy comes to D.C.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Posted by Galen Panger, Global Communications and Public Affairs
Google D.C. hosted over 50 teachers in our office today for the 2009
Google Teacher Academy
Google for Educators
head and Senior Product Marketing Manager Cristin Frodella explains what it was all about:
Free wireless broadband for low-income families in the District
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Posted by Sunil Daluvoy, New Business Development
We were at
Kramer Middle School
in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C., this morning for an
. Google has teamed up with
to deliver free wireless broadband cards and Internet service to low-income students and families in Washington, a program we're calling Project Change Access. Today we distributed the first of these wireless broadband cards, along with free computers, to several Kramer Middle School students and local residents. Over the next several weeks, up to 1,000 wireless broadband cards will be distributed through our community partners to low-income families across the District.
Today's announcement grew out of a pilot program launched last year by One Economy and Cricket to provide free wireless broadband to several hundred low-income families in Portland, Oregon. Students who previously lacked Internet access were able to online resources to help them with their homework. Their parents were able to learn English online, access online job resources, research health care information, and more.
The Internet was invented here, but millions of low-income Americans are being left out of the digital revolution. We believe that every American should have access to the immense social and economic benefits of the web. Project Change Access is a small step towards that goal.
Check back soon for photos and video from this morning's event.
Here's a photo of Kramer Middle School students and local residents alongside representatives of Project Change Access and Washington Redskins cornerback
Here's video from last week's event.
FTC roundtable explores privacy in an information economy
Monday, December 7, 2009
Posted by Jane Horvath, Global Privacy Counsel
What happens to privacy when new technologies are adopted by society? That's what the Federal Trade Commission is looking into today in the first of a three-part series of
about the privacy issues raised by our information economy and the innovations of the 21st century. During the day-long event, the FTC will be joined by dozens of experts from universities and think tanks, consumer advocacy groups, and industry organizations to talk about what happens with the collection of data when technologies such as social networking, cloud computing, and mobile marketing emerge. Today's roundtable discussions will be broken down into five different panels:
Benefits and Risks of Collecting, Using, and Retaining Consumer Data
Consumer Expectations and Disclosures
Online Behavioral Advertising
Exploring Existing Regulatory Frameworks
Alan Davidson, Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, will be representing Google on the second panel about consumer expectations. At Google, we use data to create products and services that many find useful and interesting. Our approach to privacy is to empower users with transparency and choice. We let people know what data we collect and provide meaningful choices and tools so people can make informed decisions. In the past year, we've taken several steps to underscore this commitment. With
, we created a tool called the Ads Preferences Manager, which gives people a say in the types of ads they see. Our
Data Liberation Front
makes it easier to move data in and out of Google. And most recently, we launched
, which lets Google Account holders view and control the data that's associated with the signed-in services they use.
There's sure to be plenty of lively discussion at today's roundtable. We'd love to hear your thoughts, too. You can watch the
of the event, and share your comments below.
When sources disagree: borders and place names in Google Earth and Maps
Friday, December 4, 2009
Posted by Bob Boorstin, Director, Public Policy Team
Collecting and sharing the most accurate information about place names and borders is a tough task that every map maker faces. The first sources are the nations themselves, but when neighboring countries claim overlapping territories and conflicting place names, even showing the dispute on a map may be prohibited by local law. We continue to work hard on these issues, and thought it would be worth sharing our general approach on this blog.
We want to be transparent about the principles we follow in designing our mapping products, particularly as they apply to disputed regions. Last year, for example,
how we determine the names for bodies of water in Google Earth. For each difficult case, we gather a cross-functional group of Googlers including software engineers, product managers, GIS specialists, policy analysts, and geopolitical researchers. This process benefits from the local knowledge and experience of Googlers around the world.
We follow a hierarchy of values to inform our depictions of geopolitically sensitive regions:
In all cases we work to represent the "ground truth" as accurately and neutrally as we can, in consistency with Google's mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. We work to provide as much discoverable information as possible so that users can make their own judgments about geopolitical disputes. That can mean providing multiple claim lines (e.g. the Syrian and Israeli lines in the
), multiple names (e.g. two names separated by a slash: "
Londonderry / Derry
"), or clickable political annotations with short descriptions of the issues (e.g. the annotation for "Arunachal Pradesh," currently in Google Earth only; see
about disputed seas).
While no single authority has all the answers, when deciding how to depict sensitive place names and borders we use guidance from data providers that most accurately describe borders in treaties and other authoritative standards bodies like the
, ISO and the FIPS. We look for the references that are the most universally recognized for each individual case. For example, in the case of "
" ISO and FIPS each use a different name, so we include both to provide a more complete reference for our users.
We work to localize the user experience while striving to keep all points of view easily discoverable in our products. Google Maps has launched on 32 region domains (e.g.
for Canada) and Google Earth is now available in 41 languages. Each domain and language user population is most familiar with a slightly different set of place names. For example, for the "Yellow Sea" or "West Sea," Chinese speaking users are conversant with the label Huáng Hǎi or 黄海 (Mandarin), while Korean users are used to the label Sŏ Hae or 서해 (Hangul). Carefully considering Google's mission, guidance from authoritative references, local laws and local market expectations, we strive to provide tools that help our users explore and learn about their world, and to the extent allowed by local law, includes all points of view where there are conflicting claims.
Sometimes these factors compete with one another. For example, is localizing a place name inconsistent with Google's mission? What happens when an authoritative references does not seem to represent the truth on the ground? What about when local user expectations don't match international convention, or when local laws prohibit acknowledging regional conflicts? These are questions we continue to think through in our efforts to provide comprehensive, authoritative, free, and, most importantly, useful products for our users.
FTC looks at the future of news
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Posted by Josh Cohen, Senior Business Product Manager
For the next two days, the Federal Trade Commission
a subject that's central to democracy: the future of news. I'll be representing Google at the event, which the commission is calling "From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Digital Age?" We're an optimistic company, so maybe it's no surprise that we believe journalism will not only survive, but thrive on the Internet. And we think we can help.
Why does Google care about the future of the news? Our mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful, and journalism is an important source of the high-quality information for which our users search. It also serves a vital public service. So, as the industry goes through a wrenching period of transition, we're working with newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, web-only outlets and other news organizations that publish online to find solutions. We applaud the experiments that many publishers are trying and want to work with them to help drive even more innovation. We're focusing on helping news publishers in three key areas:
Google makes it easy for people to find the news they're looking for and discover new sources of information. Google sends about 4 billion clicks each month, or 100,000 per minute, to news publishers via Google News, web search and other services. Each click is an opportunity for publishers to show ads, win loyal readers and register users. They can also sell online subscriptions: news publishers can charge for their work and ensure that it's discovered through Google -- these two are not mutually exclusive. Of course, news publishers have control over whether their content is made discoverable through Google.
Google offers news publishers free tools to better engage with their audiences. Examples include YouTube Direct, which helps news outlets solicit and manage online video submissions from citizen reporters, and Google Maps, which publishers use to create and embed custom maps to augment their coverage. You'll see us try experiments like
Google Fast Flip
, which we launched in Google Labs with more than three dozen publishing partners to provide online news consumers with a "magazine-like" experience.
Google provides a variety of advertising solutions to help publishers maximize their revenue. Two of the best-known are AdSense, for serving relevant ads on a publisher's web pages, and DoubleClick tools, for managing, serving and measuring display ads. There's still a big gap between the amount of time people spend online and the amount of advertising dollars spent online, so we're investing in interest-based advertising and other ways to make ads even more relevant (and as a result, more valuable) to publications' readers. Google is also exploring technology solutions to make paid content systems more seamless for publishers and users, such as subscription services and billing platforms.
Just as there's no single cause for the news industry's current struggles, there's no single solution. We would love your thoughts on additional ways we can help journalism thrive on the Internet. Feel free to tune in the
of today's proceedings on the FTC's website and share your ideas with us in the comments below.
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