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Category: Google | Jan 28, 2013
Today, January 28, is Data Privacy Day, when the world recognizes the importance of preserving your online privacy and security.
If it’s like most other days, Google—like many companies that provide online services to users—will receive dozens of letters, faxes and emails from government agencies and courts around the world requesting access to our users’ private account information. Typically this happens in connection with government investigations.
It’s important for law enforcement agencies to pursue illegal activity and keep the public safe. We’re a law-abiding company, and we don’t want our services to be used in harmful ways. But it’s just as important that laws protect you against overly broad requests for your personal information.
To strike this balance, we’re focused on three initiatives that I’d like to share, so you know what Google is doing to protect your privacy and security.
First, for several years we have advocated for updating laws like the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act, so the same protections that apply to your personal documents that you keep in your home also apply to your email and online documents. We’ll continue this effort strongly in 2013 through our membership in the Digital Due Process coalition and other initiatives.
Second, we’ll continue our long-standing strict process for handling these kinds of requests. When government agencies ask for our users’ personal information—like what you provide when you sign up for a Google Account, or the contents of an email—our team does several things:
- We scrutinize the request carefully to make sure it satisfies the law and our policies. For us to consider complying, it generally must be made in writing, signed by an authorized official of the requesting agency and issued under an appropriate law.
- We evaluate the scope of the request. If it’s overly broad, we may refuse to provide the information or seek to narrow the request. We do this frequently.
- We notify users about legal demands when appropriate so that they can contact the entity requesting it or consult a lawyer. Sometimes we can’t, either because we’re legally prohibited (in which case we sometimes seek to lift gag orders or unseal search warrants) or we don’t have their verified contact information.
- We require that government agencies conducting criminal investigations use a search warrant to compel us to provide a user’s search query information and private content stored in a Google Account—such as Gmail messages, documents, photos and YouTube videos. We believe a warrant is required by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and overrides conflicting provisions in ECPA.
And third, we work hard to provide you with information about government requests. Today, for example, we’ve added a new section to our Transparency Report that answers many questions you might have. And last week we released data showing that government requests continue to rise, along with additional details on the U.S. legal processes—such as subpoenas, court orders and warrants—that government use to compel us to provide this information.
We’re proud of our approach, and we believe it’s the right way to make sure governments can pursue legitimate investigations while we do our best to protect your privacy and security.
Posted by David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer
Category: Google | Jan 23, 2013
As President Obama and his cabinet begin their second term in the White House, they’re renewing a series of conversations on Google+ with top administration officials. These “Fireside Hangouts,” a 21st-century spin on FDR’s famous radio addresses, bring top Administration officials to Google+ to discuss the most important issues in the country, face-to-face-to-face with fellow citizens in a hangout. The next hangout will take place Thursday, January 24 at 1:45 pm ET with Vice President Joe Biden on a topic that’s on everyone’s mind: reducing gun violence.
During his 30-minute hangout, Vice President Biden will discuss the White House policy recommendations on reducing gun violence with participants including Guy Kawasaki, Phil DeFranco and moderator Hari Sreenivasan from PBS NewsHour. If you’d like to suggest a question, just follow the participants on Google+, and look for posts about tomorrow’s Hangout. To view the broadcast live, just tune in to the White House’s Google+ page or YouTube channel on Thursday afternoon.
The White House will continue to host Hangouts with key members of the President’s cabinet on a range of second term priorities. Follow the White House on Google+ for more information about how you can join the conversation… or an upcoming Hangout.
Posted by Ramya Raghavan, Google+ Politics
Category: Google | Jan 23, 2013
Today we’re releasing new data for the Transparency Report, showing that the steady increase in government requests for our users’ data continued in the second half of 2012, as usage of our services continued to grow. We’ve shared figures like this since 2010 because it’s important for people to understand how government actions affect them.
We’re always looking for ways to make the report even more informative. So for the first time we’re now including a breakdown of the kinds of legal process that government entities in the U.S. use when compelling communications and technology companies to hand over user data. From July through December 2012:
- 68 percent of the requests Google received from government entities in the U.S. were through subpoenas. These are requests for user-identifying information, issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), and are the easiest to get because they typically don’t involve judges.
- 22 percent were through ECPA search warrants. These are, generally speaking, orders issued by judges under ECPA, based on a demonstration of “probable cause” to believe that certain information related to a crime is presently in the place to be searched.
- The remaining 10 percent were mostly court orders issued under ECPA by judges or other processes that are difficult to categorize.
User data requests of all kinds have increased by more than 70 percent since 2009, as you can see in our new visualizations of overall trends. In total, we received 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 users from July through December 2012.
We’ll keep looking for more ways to inform you about government requests and how we handle them. We hope more companies and governments themselves join us in this effort by releasing similar kinds of data.
One last thing: You may have noticed that the latest Transparency Report doesn’t include new data on content removals. That’s because we’ve decided to release those numbers separately going forward. Stay tuned for that data.
Posted by Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security
Category: Google | Jan 17, 2013
The Google Crisis Response team has assembled a resource page to help track affected areas and provide updated emergency information for the millions affected by flooding in Jakarta. We also have a mobile page with emergency contact numbers and lists of shelters, and enhanced search results on google.co.id to provide information directly when people search. We’ve also included this information in our FreeZone service to reach affected users on feature phones.
On both the page and map, which are available in English and Bahasa Indonesia, you’ll see an update on flood locations and related data such as traffic conditions in areas affected by the flooding.
To share the page or embed these maps on your own site, click “Share” at the top of the page.
We’ll update the content as more information becomes available.
Posted by Alice Bonhomme-Biais, Software Engineer, Google Crisis Response
Category: Google | Jan 14, 2013
We’re always thinking about ways to make everyday life a little easier and a little more fun. But what would the perfect day look like? We thought we’d ask the most creative folks out there: today we’re announcing our 6th annual U.S. Doodle 4 Google competition, inviting K-12 students around the country to create their own “doodle” (one of the special Google logos you see on our homepage on various occasions). This year’s theme: “My Best Day Ever…” Breakdancing with aliens? Sure! Building a fortress of candy? Okay by us! Riding to school on a brontosaurus? You get the idea—but if you need more inspiration, take a look at our video here:
The winning artist will see their work on the Google homepage for a day, win a $30,000 college scholarship, and win a $50,000 technology grant for his or her school.
The judging starts with Googlers and a panel of guest judges. This year our judges include journalist and TV personality Katie Couric; music maestro Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson of The Roots; Chris Sanders, writer and director of Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon; and Pendleton Ward, creator of Adventure Time; among other great creative minds.
On May 1 we’ll open up a public vote for the 50 State Winners. They’ll be flown to New York City for a national awards ceremony on May 22. There, we’ll announce the National Winner, whose doodle will appear on the Google homepage the following day. In addition, all the State Winners will have their artwork on display at the American Museum of Natural History from May 22 to July 14.
Participating is easier than ever. You can download the entry forms on our Doodle 4 Google site and send in completed doodles by mail or online. All entries must be received by March 22 with a parent or guardian’s signature. We encourage full classrooms to participate too. There’s no limit to the number of doodles that come from any one school or family… just remember, only one doodle per student.
For more details, check out google.com/doodle4google, where you’ll find full contest rules and entry forms. Happy doodling, and good luck!
Posted by Ryan Germick, Doodle Team Lead
Category: Google | Jan 9, 2013
In late December, while most of us were busy wrapping presents, our Treasury team was tying a bow on our most recent renewable energy deal: an approximately $200 million equity investment in a wind farm in west Texas that generates enough energy to power more than 60,000 average U.S. homes.
Spinning Spur Wind Project is located in Oldham County, a wide open, windy section of the Texas Panhandle located about 35 miles from Amarillo. The 161 megawatt facility was built by renewable energy developer EDF Renewable Energy, a veteran in the industry that has overseen more than 50 other clean energy projects. Spinning Spur’s 70 2.3 MW Siemens turbines started spinning full time just before the end of the year, and the energy they create has been contracted to SPS, a utility that primarily serves Texas and New Mexico.
We look for projects like Spinning Spur because, in addition to creating more renewable energy and strengthening the local economy, they also make for smart investments: they offer attractive returns relative to the risks and allow us to invest in a broad range of assets. We’re also proud to be the first investor in an EDF Renewable Energy project that is not a financial institution, as we believe that corporations can be an important new source of capital for the renewable energy sector.
Spinning Spur joins 10 other renewable energy investments we’ve made since 2010, several of which hit significant milestones in the past year:
- The Atlantic Wind Connection received permission to begin permitting, an important step in advancing the construction of the United States’ first offshore backbone electric transmission system (more in this new video).
- Shepherds Flat, one of the world’s largest wind farms with a capacity of 845 MW, became fully operational in October.
- The Ivanpah project, which is more than 75 percent complete and employs 2,000+ people, recently installed its 100,000th heliostat, a kind of mirror (more in this new video).
- Just yesterday (PDF), the fourth and final phase of Recurrent Energy’s 88MW solar installation in Sacramento County, Calif., reached commercial operation.
Altogether, the renewable energy projects we’ve invested in are capable of generating 2 gigawatts of power. To give a better sense of what that really means, we came up with some comparisons (click to enlarge):
Here’s to a clean, renewable 2013!
Posted by Kojo Ako-Asare, Senior Manager, Corporate Finance
Category: Google | Jan 7, 2013
This is the second post in a series profiling Googlers who facilitate classes as part of our g2g program, in which Googlers teach, share and learn from each other. Regardless of role, level or location, g2g’s community-based approach makes it possible for all Googlers to take advantage of a variety of learning opportunities. – Ed.
If someone had told me when I graduated with a degree in economics that I’d one day be employed in a technical role at Google, I would have laughed. In 2008, I joined Google’s people operations rotation program, in which one experiences three different people ops areas—from benefits to staffing—over the course of two years. After just a few short months, I found myself with a passion for technology and a profound interest in programming that would draw me into teaching a class, Intro to Programming (I2P), to non-engineers at Google as a part of the g2g (Googlers-to-Googlers) program.
Teaching programming to an I2P class at our Mountain View, Calif. headquarters
While on the benefits team, I was assigned a project that involved matching up hundreds of Googlers’ names with their corresponding office locations and job titles. I quickly realized that a few simple programming scripts could probably speed up my work and reduce errors. The only problem was, I had no clue how to write a program.
I began to teach myself the programming language Python, which is known for its clarity of syntax and friendliness to beginners. Slowly, I produced a multi-functional automated spreadsheet, and then a web application to share with my team. My teammates, seeing that my newfound technical skills had saved all of us time, asked me to teach them how to code; thus, in front of a whiteboard in a small conference room, I2P was born.
Since then, more than 200 Googlers have taken I2P. We encourage an open, supportive environment in the class, making it an approachable way for Googlers to broaden their horizons within the workplace and gain new skills. Some of my former students have even moved from roles in global business, finance and people operations to full-time engineering positions. That’s awesome to see, but I love that Googlers can use what they learn in I2P to make processes across the company more efficient—no matter what team they work on. For example, an administrative assistant who took the class streamlined a manual daily task by automating an email response survey for her team.
In addition to solving business challenges, I’ve also seen Googlers using the programming skills they learned in I2P to help others—both inside and outside of Google. Recently, an I2P alum increased participation in Google’s free flu shot program by writing a Python-based enrollment tool that allows Googlers to find appointments online by preferred office location and time. Thousands more Googlers signed up to receive flu shots due to the convenience provided by the tool. Because Google donates an equal number of vaccinations, such as those preventing meningitis or pneumonia, to children in the developing world, this new tool also led to thousands more children receiving crucial vaccinations.
More than 200 Googlers have participated in the 11-week course (the sword definitely helps keep engagement high…don’t worry, it’s foam!)
What’s extraordinary to me is that under the g2g program, the “guy down the hall in HR” can teach programming—of all things—to his fellow Googlers. It’s been extremely rewarding to experience first-hand the results of my students’ learnings. Googlers have taken the principles and skills from I2P and put them to work in time management, email communication and even just having fun re-creating Frogger—leave it to Googlers to span the gamut of I2P skill application. I often think how awesome it would be if every Googler could take I2P and apply what they’ve learned to make processes across the company more efficient.
If you’re interested in learning how to code, here are three tips from the course that you can practice on your own. While I’ve learned these principles via programming, they can be helpful in all kinds of fields!
- Practice and theory. You learn best when you have something to apply your learning to. With programming, find a project you want to apply your skills to and build the knowledge necessary to accomplish your project.
- Bad habits die hard. If you are writing messy or convoluted code, you are building habits that will be very hard to break. Better to overcome the pain of doing it the right way initially so that you never have to go back and change.
- Get feedback. Just because a script “works” doesn’t mean it works well. Always get advice from others with more experience so that you are learning how to do things better, not just sufficiently well.
Posted by Albert Hwang, Team Lead of the People Technology & Operations Tools Group
Category: Google | Jan 3, 2013
When Melodie Bishop heard about our Get Your Business Online program (an initiative that makes it fast, easy and free for U.S. businesses to get online), she jumped at the opportunity to turn her hobby of creating Chicago-themed gift baskets into a full-time business. Since launching her website, Send Them Chicago, this past summer, Melodie has seen a 70 percent increase in new customers.
Melodie Bishop with one of her gift baskets
As the holidays wrap up and the New Year starts, millions of business owners just like Melodie are thinking about how they can grow in 2013. For many, this means getting found and connecting with customers on the web.
Yet often, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we’re helping business owners create a list of New Year’s resolutions for 2013.
Let us know what you hope to accomplish in the New Year. Do you want to get your basic business information online? Or do you already have a website and want to reach more customers? Once you select your goals, we’ll create a customized list of resolutions with resources to help you stick to it.
In the U.S., 58 percent of small businesses don’t have a website, but 97 percent of Internet users look online for local products and services. So it’s not surprising that businesses with a web presence are expected to grow 40 percent faster than those without. Creating a list of resolutions for your business may just be one of the easiest things you can do to help your business grow.
We’ll see you on the web.
P.S. If you aren’t a small business owner, it’s not too late to give that business you know the gift of a free website.
Posted by Aditya Mahesh, Product Marketing, Get Your Business Online
Category: Google | Jan 3, 2013
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission today announced it has closed its investigation into Google after an exhaustive 19-month review that covered millions of pages of documents and involved many hours of testimony. The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition.
Larry and Sergey founded Google because they believed that building a great search experience would improve people’s lives. And in the decade-plus that’s followed, Google has worked hard to make it quicker and easier for users to find what they need. In the early days you would type in a query, we’d return 10 blue links and you’d have to click on them individually to find what you wanted. Today we can save you the hassle by providing direct answers to your questions, as well as links to other sites. So if you type in [weather san francisco], or [tom hanks movies], we now give you the answer right from the results page—because truly great search is all about turning your needs into actions in the blink of an eye.
As we made clear when the FTC started its investigation, we’ve always been open to improvements that would create a better experience. And today we’ve written (PDF) to the FTC making two voluntary product changes:
- More choice for websites: Websites can already opt out of Google Search, and they can now remove content (for example reviews) from specialized search results pages, such as local, travel and shopping;
- More ad campaign control: Advertisers can already export their ad campaigns from Google AdWords. They will now be able to mix and copy ad campaign data within third-party services that use our AdWords API.
In addition, we’ve agreed with the FTC (PDF) that we will seek to resolve standard-essential patent disputes through a neutral third party before seeking injunctions. This agreement establishes clear rules of the road for standards essential patents going forward.
We’ve always accepted that with success comes regulatory scrutiny. But we’re pleased that the FTC and the other authorities that have looked at Google’s business practices—including the U.S. Department of Justice (in its ITA Software review), the U.S. courts (in the SearchKing and Kinderstart cases), and the Brazilian courts (in a case last year)—have concluded that we should be free to combine direct answers with web results. So we head into 2013 excited about our ability to innovate for the benefit of users everywhere.
Posted by David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer
Category: Google | Jan 1, 2013
The new year has arrived, and with it all the resolutions that we hope to tackle in 2013.
But resolutions can be hard to keep. And since eating better, taking control of personal finances, travelling more and learning something new regularly top the list of New Year’s resolutions, we’ve pulled together some of our best tips and tricks across Google to make 2013 the year you succeed with your goals.
- Counting calories? Apps such as Diet Diary can be easily accessed through Chrome or your Android device—that way it’s with you when it‘s on your mind. If spreadsheets are more your style, try one of several Google Docs templates, like this weekly meal planner.
- Find recipes for healthy meals and how-to-cook videos with apps like BBC’s Good Food for Chrome or food channels like Show me the Curry on YouTube.
- Rely on the Google+ community for motivation and learn from others via hangouts on how to prepare healthy meals.
- We know how easy it is to fall off track. Check out Google Play to find apps, books and music to keep you motivated.
Get fiscally fit
- To control your finances, you need to know exactly where money is coming in and out. This simple budget template in Google Drive already has you halfway there.
- If you prefer a more detailed budget, try using an app like Mint to track your finances on the go, available on both Android and Chrome.
- Keep track of your stock portfolio and related market news via Google Finance or with brokerage apps like E*TRADE from Google Play.
- Use Google Flight Search to quickly compare flight times and costs across airlines. Try the “tourist spotlight” feature on Google Hotel Finder to find a room near the hottest spots in the city.
- Simply type [tourist attractions <city name>] into Google Search to see some of the top points of interest. Once you have a list of the things you want to do and see, keep it in one place and share it with your travel buddies using Google Sheets.
- Never get lost with Google Maps. Whether your plans are local or international, indoors or out, comprehensive and accurate Google Maps can help you find your way.
Learn something new
If your resolution wasn’t listed here, try checking out SELF Magazine’s Google+ page with tips from experts, live via Google+ hangouts, for 13 more resolutions starting on January 13.
Research shows that you’re more likely to achieve your resolutions if you write them down and have support. Try sharing your goals with communities around you. When you’re ready to share your new year’s ambition with the world, or if you’re interested in seeing what resolutions look like around the globe, add it to the interactive resolution map on our 2012 Zeitgeist website.
No matter who you are, the web can help you do anything.
Posted by Liz Wessel, Associate Product Marketing Manager