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Category: Google | Jun 11, 2013
This morning we sent the following letter to the offices of the Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Read the full text below. -Ed.
Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller
Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.
We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.
Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.
We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.
Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.
We will be making this letter public and await your response.
Chief Legal Officer
Category: Google | Jun 11, 2013
Many great scientists developed their curiosity for science at an early age and in January we called on the brightest young minds from around the world to send us their ideas to change the world. Our 2013 Google Science Fair attracted an exciting and diverse range of entries, with thousands of submissions from more than 120 countries.
After a busy few months for the judges, we’re ready to reveal our 90 regional finalists for the 2013 Google Science Fair. It was no easy task selecting these projects, but in the end their creativity, scientific merit and global relevance shined through. This year’s finalists projects range from using banana peels to produce bioplastics to research into a green treatment for contaminated water. Other projects include a study on the effects of video gaming on the cognitive function of the brain and the evaluation of wireless transmission of electricity.
The 90 Regional Finalists come from all over the world.
For the second year, we’ll also be recognizing the Scientific American Science in Action Award. This award honors a project that makes a practical difference by addressing an environmental, health or resources challenge. From the 90 finalists’ projects, 15 were nominated for this year’s award.
On June 27 we’ll announce the 15 global finalists and the winner of the Science in Action Award. These young scientists will then be flown to Google’s California headquarters for the last round of judging and a celebratory event on September 23.
Thank you to everyone who submitted a project—we really appreciate all your hard work. Congratulations to our 90 regional finalists!
Posted by Sam Peter, Google Science Fair team
Category: Google | Jun 11, 2013
More than ever, people are using the Internet to shop, read, listen to music and learn. And businesses rely on Internet-based tools to operate and deliver their services efficiently. The Internet has created all kinds of new opportunities for society and the economy—but what does it mean for the environment?
We’ve been working to answer that question and enlisted the help of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to gather more data. Their study (PDF), released today, shows that migrating all U.S. office workers to the cloud could save up to 87 percent of IT energy use—about 23 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, or enough to power the city of Los Angeles for a year. The savings are associated with shifting people in the workforce to Internet-based applications like email, word processing and customer relationship software.
These results indicate that the Internet offers huge potential for energy savings. We’re especially excited that Berkeley Lab has made its model publicly available so other researchers and experts can plug in their own assumptions and help refine and improve the results.
Of course, understanding the impact of shifting office applications to the cloud is only part of the story, which is why last week we hosted a summit called “How Green is the Internet?” to explore these questions in greater detail. At the summit, experts presented data on how the growth of Internet infrastructure, including devices like phones and tablets, can impact the environment. We also saw great excitement about the potential for entirely new Internet-enabled tools in areas like transportation, e-commerce and digital content to deliver huge energy and carbon savings. We’ve posted the videos from those sessions and invite you to take a look.
One of our goals in hosting the summit and supporting the Berkeley Lab study was to identify and encourage new research on this topic. We’ll continue to work to answer some of these questions, and we hope others will too.
Posted by Michael Terrell, Senior Policy Counsel, Energy & Sustainability
Category: Google | Jun 11, 2013
We’ve all been there: stuck in traffic, frustrated that you chose the wrong route on the drive to work. But imagine if you could see real-time traffic updates from friends and fellow travelers ahead of you, calling out “fender bender…totally stuck in left lane!” and showing faster routes that others are taking.
To help you outsmart traffic, today we’re excited to announce we’ve closed the acquisition of Waze. This fast-growing community of traffic-obsessed drivers is working together to find the best routes from home to work, every day.
The Waze product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now. We’re excited about the prospect of enhancing Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google’s search capabilities.
We’ll also work closely with the vibrant Waze community, who are the DNA of this app, to ensure they have what’s needed to grow and prosper.
The Waze community and its dedicated team have created a great source of timely road corrections and updates. We welcome them to Google and look forward to working with them in our ongoing effort to make a comprehensive, accurate and useful map of the world.
Posted by Brian McClendon, Vice President, Geo
Category: Google | Jun 9, 2013
Israel is now one of the world’s tech powerhouses, second only to Silicon Valley as a hub for startups, but it wasn’t always this way. Today, in honour of the 84th birthday of Professor Aviezri Fraenkel, we’re delighted to share a short film sharing his story of working on the WEIZAC, Israel’s first computer.
Short film produced with support from Google as part of our ongoing computing heritage series
The impetus to build a computer in Israel came from Professor Chaim Pekeris, an MIT-trained geophysicist and mathematician, who made it a condition of accepting a job at the then-fledgling Weizmann Institute. An illustrious committee was set up to consider Pekeris’s request and initially opinion was divided. In particular, Albert Einstein was skeptical a computer in Israel would receive sufficient use and queried whether the skilled resources to build it were available. It took much convincing by another committee member, mathematician and computing luminary John Von Neumann, before the project got the go-ahead.
Construction of the WEIZAC (“Weizmann Automatic Calculator”) got underway in late 1953 under the leadership of Professor Pekeris and Jerry Estrin. A protege of Von Neumann, Estrin arrived in Israel armed with design drawings based on the computer at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. After advertising for recruits, a small team of engineers and technicians was assembled, among them Aviezri Fraenkel.
It took the team a lot of ingenuity to source the necessary materials. Some were imported, but others were clever adaptations, such as the thin copper strips that came from a small local bicycle-part shop! Despite such hurdles, progress was steady, and the major components were in place by the time Estrin returned to the U.S. 15 months later.
The WEIZAC performed its first calculation in October 1955 and was soon much in demand by Israeli scientists. It remained operational until the end of 1963—50 years ago this year. Nowadays it resides in the Weizmann Institute’s Ziskind Building as a fitting memorial to where computing in Israel began.
I have fond memories of passing by the WEIZAC every day when I studied at the Weizmann Institute, where I also had the privilege to attend a class by Professor Fraenkel. With the release of this short film, I’m delighted to be learning more from him about such an important chapter in Israel’s tech history.
Posted by Yossi Matias, Senior Engineering Director, Head of Israel R&D Centre
Category: Google | Jun 7, 2013
Dear Google users—
You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer, we wanted you to have the facts.
First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.
Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users’ call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.
Finally, this episode confirms what we have long believed—there needs to be a more transparent approach. Google has worked hard, within the confines of the current laws, to be open about the data requests we receive. We post this information on our Transparency Report whenever possible. We were the first company to do this. And, of course, we understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety—including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.
Posted by Larry Page, CEO and David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer
Category: Google | Jun 4, 2013
This is the fourth 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.
Eight years ago, I loaded five boxes into my pickup truck, said goodbye to a career of crunching numbers in hotel management, and started my own massage practice in Washington state.
Soon thereafter, I started at Google as an onsite massage therapist at the Kirkland and Seattle offices, and I was ready for the challenge. But after a few years of massage work, I started to ponder alternatives to massage to further help my fellow Googlers relax and de-stress. Being able to take a moment out of one’s day to relax and decompress is not only beneficial for one’s health, but also may help people be happier and more productive in their day to day lives. So in 2011, I helped launch “MindBody Awareness,” a guided meditation class, as part of the Googler-to-Googler (g2g) program.
It’s no secret that meditation can be an excellent way to relax your body and focus the mind. A plethora of studies have supported that point. That said, one of the hardest parts of meditation is simply giving it a try. For an activity based in calmness and openness, it’s ironic how meditation can, for some, engender feelings of intimidation and even embarrassment at the outset. So we specifically designed “MindBody Awareness” for all levels so anyone can walk through the door and dive right in. Having a friendly, informal meditation class taught onsite by a fellow Googler allows for community building, and immediately relaxes participants whether they’re new to the practice or veterans.
Leading a MindBody Awareness class at our Kirkland, Wash. office
We begin each 30-minute class by going through a Qigong series that consists of 12 different positions held for 30 seconds each. This is how we begin bringing awareness of one’s body and mind into play, shedding the distractions from the outside and becoming more in tune with one’s self. The second portion of the class is a seated meditation, which incorporates changing hand positions, where chimes go off every minute to signal a change in pose. This integrates the mind and the body instead of just one or the other. The chimes help the mind stay focused, and acts as an anchor helping people return to a quiet mind if they happen to get lost in distraction. An engineer who takes my class told me “being aware of what my physical body needs while my brain is busy coding has helped me significantly reduce stress, not get so worn out, and enjoy my job.” Another Googler noted to me that he feels “having a regular chance to slow down, collect [himself] and connect mind and body contributes to a more mindful, lower stress outlook throughout the week.”
Taking a few minutes a day to sync your mind and body can help you relax and stay focused throughout the work day
Through g2g, we’ve made MindBody Awareness and other meditation classes available in 16 different cities, providing an alternative method of stress relief for Googlers around the world. To make it even easier for Googlers to access meditation classes, we offer global meditative Google Hangouts. Googlers can video conference into a meditation hangout for 30 or 60 minutes to practice meditation as a group.
Meditation class offered through the g2g program has also fostered a unique way to build a sense of community. The class has brought Googlers from varying departments together to meet new people by taking a break for 30 minutes to re-charge. The ultimate goal of the class is that Googlers get positive energy flowing that they can bring back to their desks—or anywhere for that matter!
Tips and tricks to help you de-stress
- Focus on your breath. Take a few moments to allow your mind and body to relax even if it’s just for one or two long deep breaths—make sure you can physically see your belly and chest rise. Taking just one minute a day can make a significant difference.
- Think of your favorite things. Positive thoughts can give a way to a more positive attitude and outlook.
- Try to focus on one thing. See if you can sit back and tackle your tasks one piece at a time, as if you were working on a puzzle piece by piece. Eventually, it will come together in a systematic way!
Posted by Amy Colvin, Massage Therapist
Category: Google | Jun 4, 2013
What do a Swedish wind farm developer, a German insurance company and Google’s Finnish data center have in common? As of today, a lot. We’ve just inked agreements with O2 and Allianz to supply our Finnish data center with renewable energy for the next 10 years—our fourth long-term agreement to power our data centers with renewable energy worldwide, and our first in Europe.
Here’s how it works: O2, the wind farm developer, has obtained planning approval to build a new 72MW wind farm at Maevaara, in Övertorneå and Pajala municipality in northern Sweden, using highly efficient 3MW wind turbines. We’ve committed to buying the entire output of that wind farm for 10 years so that we can power our Finnish data center with renewable energy. That agreement has helped O2 to secure 100% financing for the construction of the wind farm from the investment arm of German insurance company Allianz, which will assume ownership when the wind farm becomes operational in early 2015.
This arrangement is possible thanks to Scandinavia’s integrated electricity market and grid system, Nord Pool. It enables us to buy the wind farm’s output in Sweden with Guarantee of Origin certification and consume an equivalent amount of power at our data center in Finland. We then “retire” the Guarantee of Origin certificates to show that we’ve actually used the energy.
As a carbon neutral company, our goal is to use as much renewable energy as possible—and by doing so, stimulate further production. The Maevaara wind farm not only allows us to make our already highly energy-efficient Finnish data center even more sustainable, it also meets our goal of adding new renewable energy generation capacity to the grid.
Of course, using renewable energy is good for the environment, but it also makes long term financial sense. That’s why, in addition to protecting ourselves against future increases in power prices through long-term purchasing for our operations, we also invest in new renewable energy projects that will deliver a return for our money. In recent years we’ve committed more than $1 billion to such projects in the U.S., Germany and, just last week, South Africa. We’ll continue to look for similar opportunities around the globe.
Posted by Francois Sterin, Senior Manager, Global Infrastructure Team
Category: Google | Jun 3, 2013
In March, we launched the U.K. Global Impact Challenge, asking British nonprofits to tell us how they’d use technology to change the world. Today, after evaluating hundreds of creative and visionary projects and narrowing the stack down to just 10 finalists, we’re announcing four inspiring Global Impact Awardees.
Three Awardees were selected by a panel of judges including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Sir Richard Branson and Jilly Forster. Ultimately, the three recipients were selected for their unique application of technology to solve a big challenge and their ambitious but attainable vision:
- SolarAid will enable widespread access to low-cost, safe solar lighting in off-grid African communities currently reliant on kerosene lighting.
- Integrity Action will improve public infrastructure and services in war-torn countries through an online and mobile platform for citizens to report on development projects.
- CDI Apps For Good will revolutionize computing education by engaging youth in the hands-on creation of apps.
We also asked the public to help us choose one additional fan favorite to receive a £500,000 Global Impact Award. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast between May 17-31. It was neck and neck, but the Zoological Society of London won for its plan to equip next generation camera traps with automated sensors, improving the protection of threatened wildlife.
SolarAid, CDI Apps for Good, Integrity Action and Zoological Society of London
Each of the four nonprofits will receive a £500,000 Global Impact Award and support from Google volunteers to make their project a reality. We believe technology can change the world, and entrepreneurial nonprofits are a big part of that equation. So to help the six additional finalists further develop and kick-start their projects, we’ve provided each with £100,000 in seed funding.
We look forward to the impact these incredible organizations will have on the ground, and we applaud all of the nonprofits in the U.K. and around the globe that are using technology to make the world better, faster. Who knows where we’ll take the Challenge next?
Posted by Jacquelline Fuller, Director, Google Giving
Category: Google | May 30, 2013
Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. Starting today, we’ll also be posting regularly with privacy and security tips. We hope this information helps you understand the choices and control that you have over your online information. -Ed.
It could be your Gmail, your photos or your documents—whatever you have in your Google Account, we work hard to make sure it’s protected from would-be identity thieves, other bad guys, or any illegitimate attempts to access your information.
But you can also help keep your information safe. Think of how upset you would be if someone else got access to your Google Account without your permission, and then take five minutes to follow the steps below and help make it more secure. Let’s start with the key to unlocking your account—your password:
1. Use a different password for each important service
Make sure you have a different password for every important online account you have. Bad guys will steal your username and password from one site, and then use them to try to log into lots of other sites where you might have an account. Even large, reputable sites sometimes have their password databases stolen. If you use the same password across many different sites, there’s a greater chance it might end up on a list of stolen passwords. And the more accounts you have that use that password, the more data you might lose if that password is stolen.
Giving an account its own, strong password helps protect you and your information in that account. Start today by making sure your Google Account has a unique password.
2. Make your password hard to guess
“password.” “123456.” “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!” These examples are terrible passwords because everyone knows them—including potential attackers. Making your passwords longer or more complicated makes them harder to guess for both bad guys and people who know you. We know it’s hard: the average password is shorter than 8 characters, and many just contain letters. In a database of 32 million real passwords that were made public in 2009, analysis showed (PDF) only 54 percent included numbers, and only 3.7 percent had special characters like & or $.
One way to build a strong password is to think of a phrase or sentence that other people wouldn’t know and then use that to build your password. For example, for your email you could think of a personal message like “I want to get better at responding to emails quickly and concisely” and then build your password from numbers, symbols, and the first letters of each word—“iw2gb@r2eq&c”. Don’t use popular phrases or lyrics to build your password—research suggests that people gravitate to the same phrases, and you want your password to be something only you know.
Google doesn’t restrict password length, so go wild!
3. Keep your password somewhere safe
Research shows (PDF) that worrying about remembering too many passwords is the chief reason people reuse certain passwords across multiple services. But don’t worry—if you’ve created so many passwords that it’s hard to remember them, it’s OK to make a list and write them down. Just make sure you keep your list in a safe place, where you won’t lose it and others won’t be able to find it. If you’d prefer to manage your passwords digitally, a trusted password manager might be a good option. Chrome and many web browsers have free password managers built into them, and there are many independent options as well—take a few minutes to read through reviews and see what would be best for your needs.
4. Set a recovery option
Have you ever forgotten your password? Has one of your friends ever been locked out of their account? Setting a recovery option, like an alternate email address or a telephone number, helps give the service provider another way to contact you if you are ever locked out of your account. Having an up-to-date recovery phone or email address is the best thing you can do to make sure you can get back into your account fast if there is ever a problem.
If you haven’t set a recovery option for your Google Account, add one now. If you have, just take a second to make sure it’s up to date.
We have more tips on how to pick a good password on our Help Center, and in the video below:
Your online safety and privacy is important to you, and it’s important to us, too. We’ve made a huge amount of progress to help protect your Google Account from people who want to break into it, but for the time being, creating a unique, strong password is still an important way to protect your online accounts. Please take five minutes today to reset your important passwords using the tips above, and stay tuned for more security tips throughout the summer.
Posted by Diana Smetters, Software Engineer