Endorsing a path towards a "meaningful use" definition

After weeks of collaboration with a diverse group of organizations, today Google endorsed the Markle Foundation's framework on Meaningful Use and Certification. The framework outlines criteria for hospitals and physicians wishing to qualify for the health IT-related federal stimulus funds in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Among other things, the ARRA allows providers to qualify for health IT funding if they demonstrate that they are making a "meaningful use" of information technology. We think it's critically important that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers patient access to their digitized medical records via electronic health records (EHRs) when considering how to define "meaningful use."

Though Google Health will not directly receive stimulus funding (we are not asking for any), we see the framework as a critical step for moving the healthcare industry towards solutions that we believe will improve patient care. Simply put, we'd like to see the movement from paper-based medical records to digital records achieve its vast potential. Patient access to digitized medical records via EHRs helps people prevent illness, manage their health-related information and transactions, coordinate care and communicate with clinicians, understand health care costs, and take better care of loved ones.

As a provider of Google Health, a personal health record (PHR) service, we also believe it is very important that consumers have choice and ownership of where and how they want to store their data. We support the concepts of data portability, so that you can take your data with you no matter what hospital or delivery network you're being treated in, as well as healthcare data interoperability, so that you can transfer your information among multiple systems.

This isn't the first time we've supported a Markle Foundation framework -- in June 2008 we endorsed the Common Framework for Networked Personal Health Information, which proposed a set of important privacy principles for personal health records (PHRs), and we've since adopted these concepts within Google Health.

Improving the United States' healthcare system is a complex topic with many interlocking components. The system’s size and complexity as well as the inherent challenges in the fields of medicine and public health make this a major undertaking. This framework's effort to improve consumer access to online data is an important step, and it builds upon Markle's previous work.

Live Stream on YouTube: The President's First 100 Days News Conference

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

The first three months of the Obama Administration have brought the new American President unprecedented challenges. Back in November, when he was elected, everyone knew the economy and the Middle East would be critical issues for Obama to attack early on. But like every president before him, he's had to deal with the unexpected as well: who could have predicted pirates off the Somali Coast or swine flu?

As citizens and pundits from all political perspectives analyze the President's first 100 days in office today, Obama himself will address the nation tonight on the 100-day anniversary of his inauguration -- and we're going to carry a live stream of the conference from the White House YouTube channel. Be sure to tune in at 8pm EDT to watch it live.

We're also featuring commentary and analysis from top news organizations on our homepage today. Hear Karl Rove grade the President on Fox News. Get a re-cap from Al-Jazeera on what Obama has accomplished in his opening act. Watch the Washington Post talk with Americans in DC about their early impressions of the new President.

You can join in the conversation by making a video: How is the Obama Administration doing, and what advice would you give the President moving forward? Upload your thoughts to YouTube and add them as a video response to this Citizentube video, and we'll feature some of them on our News page tomorrow.

Finally, don't forget to come to youtube.com/whitehouse at 8pm EDT to watch President Obama address the nation.

Experimental Flu Trends for Mexico

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

In November 2008, we launched Google Flu Trends after finding a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Google Flu Trends may be able to detect influenza outbreaks earlier than other systems because it estimates flu activity in near real time.

In response to recent inquiries from public health officials, we've been attempting to use Google search activity in Mexico to help track human swine flu levels. Experimental Flu Trends for Mexico is, as you might have guessed, very experimental. But the system has detected increases in flu-related searches in Mexico City (Distrito Federal) and a few other Mexican states in recent days, beginning early in the week of 19-25 April.

In the United States, we were able to validate our estimates using data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We have not verified our data for Mexico in the same manner, but we've seen that Google users in Mexico (and around the world) also search for many flu-related topics when they have flu-like symptoms. Given the tremendous recent attention to swine flu, our model tries to filter out search queries that are more likely associated with topical searches rather than searches by those who may be experiencing symptoms.

While we would prefer to validate this data and improve its accuracy, we decided to release an early version today so that it might help public health officials and concerned individuals get an up-to-date picture of the ongoing swine flu outbreak. As with our existing Flu Trends system, estimates are provided across many of Mexico's states and updated every day. Our current estimates of flu activity in the U.S. are still generally low as would be expected given the relatively low confirmed swine flu case count. However, we'll be keeping an eye on the data to look for any spike in activity.

We're keenly aware of the trust our users place in us and our responsibility to protect their privacy. Experimental Flu Trends for Mexico -- like Google Flu Trends -- cannot be used to identify individual users. The patterns we observe are only meaningful across large populations of Google searchers. We hope that this experimental release provides useful information.

For updates on swine flu and information on how to stay healthy during a disease outbreak, visit the CDC's swine flu site.

Google Book Search settlement will expand access

Over the last few weeks we've heard a number of questions about the Google Book Search settlement and what it means for readers. Over the coming days, we'll attempt to answer some of those questions on this blog, but first, we think it's important to explain how exactly the settlement will help expand access to books in the United States. We'd also like to remind authors and publishers who have questions that they should visit the settlement Notice website.

Have you ever gone to your local bookstore looking for a book only to be told that it’s not there? You look for it on Amazon; they don’t offer it. You go to your local library and it’s not there. But you know that it exists because you read it your freshman year in college.

Or let's say you’re a second generation American interested in reading books in your parents’ native language, Greek. Try finding more than a few books in foreign languages in most town libraries or bookstores in the United States.

Or you're a graduate student who has been doing research on your thesis for years. You think you've read every book there is to read on your topic, but then you type your query into Google Book Search, and you suddenly discover a new original book or monograph that you weren't even aware of before.

Until now, we've only been able to show these users a few snippets of text for most of the in-copyright books we've scanned through our Library Project. Since the vast majority of these books are out of print, to actually read them you have to hunt them down at a library or a used bookstore. And if you can't find them -- because the only known copy is at a library on the other side of the country--you're unfortunately out of luck.

Under the settlement that will change for users in the U.S.:
  • When you find the book you're searching for, you’ll be able to preview 20% of the book over the Internet from anywhere in the U.S. If you want to look at the whole thing, you'll be able to go down to your public library where there will be a computer station with access to the whole book for free. And if you don’t want to leave home or want a copy for yourself, you’ll be able to purchase access to an electronic copy of the book. As always, if the book is old enough to be in the public domain, you’ll be able to download the whole book for free.
  • If you’re at a university, in addition to your libraries' free access points, your school can obtain an institutional subscription that gives you access to most books that we've scanned. And scholars and students who don’t keep the same study hours as the library will be able to look at any book, anywhere, any time.

  • If you are vision impaired, the settlement will open a world of books to which you've never had access. Visually impaired people will be able to search for books through the Google Books interface and purchase, borrow, or read at a public library any of the books that are available to the general public in a format that is accessible to the vision impaired.

  • If you want to read in foreign languages, you will have access to tens of thousands of more books than you have today. Books in Spanish add up to almost 10% of the books already scanned. If you account for the difference in numbers between books in Spanish and English, the usage per book in Spanish is more than three times what it is for books in English.
The settlement won't just expand access to out-of-print books, either. Because authors and publishers will have the ability to let users preview and purchase their in-print books through Google Book Search, readers will have even more options for accessing in-print books than they have today.

For users outside the U.S., the Google Book Search experience won't change unless rightsholders specifically authorize additional uses of their books outside the United States. And while the Google Book Search settlement will only allow for improved access in the U.S., we believe that this will constitute an unprecedented test bed for the development of similar services around the world.

As the discussion continues, it's important to understand what readers stand to gain.

Extending notice on the Google Book Search settlement

Last October, we announced a settlement agreement regarding Google Book Search that resolves class action lawsuits first filed in 2005 by the Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers. Last Friday, along with the authors and the publishers, we submitted a letter to the court asking for permission to extend what's called the "notice period" for an extra 60 days.

So what exactly does "notice" mean? Notice is an important part of due process. It helps inform class members of their rights under the proposed settlement and gives them a chance to opt out if they wish to. If you've ever received a letter in the mail from a credit card company or product manufacturer informing you that you're entitled to compensation under a class action, then you get the idea of what "notice" is about.

It's pretty easy for credit card companies to contact their cardholders -- they send bills to them all the time. The world's authors, publishers and their heirs are much more difficult to find. So, as the New York Times recently reported, the plaintiffs hired notice campaign specialists Kinsella Media Group to tell them about this exciting settlement, and Google has devoted millions of dollars to fund this notice campaign. Kinsella started by launching a website for authors and publishers and a direct-mail effort. Beginning in January, Kinsella published ads in newspapers and other publications all over the world from Fiji to the Cook Islands to Greenland. And of course, they also placed ads right here at home in the U.S., in publications as diverse as Writer's Digest and USA Today.

The settlement is highly detailed, and we want to make sure rightsholders everywhere have enough time to think about it and make sure it's right for them. That's why we've asked the court for permission to extend the opt-out deadline for an extra 60 days.

Update as of 04/28/09: The court has to decided to extend the opt-out deadline until September 4, 2009.

Aneesh Chopra as Chief Technology Officer

President Obama's appointment today of Aneesh Chopra as the country's first Chief Technology Officer is an important step in bringing the federal government's information systems into the 21st century. As Virginia's technology czar Aneesh has been relentless in applying technology to make government work better for citizens -- from requiring state government agencies to make their sites more crawlable, to integrating iTunes with the state's educational system.

Some have said that the appointment should have gone to someone from Silicon Valley. We disagree. Chopra's record of being unafraid to experiment and push government to better serve citizens bodes well for his performance in facing difficult challenges and great opportunities.

It's easy to forget that the appointment of a Chief Information Officer -- Vivek Kundra -- and a Chief Technology Officer in the Administration are big steps forward in the federal government's efforts to make government more responsive to citizens. Vivek and Aneesh will be a strong, forward-looking team.

Discussion Tuesday on the Google Book Search settlement

Last October, Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers announced a landmark settlement involving our Google Book Search project. The settlement is expansive and complicated, and understandably some people have raised questions about what it will mean for consumers, for books, and for competition.

For those in D.C. who are interested in learning about the settlement -- and hearing the answers to those questions -- I encourage you to check out a discussion next Tuesday hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation:
Copyright, Content and Class Action Lawsuits:
A Debate on the Google Book Search Settlement

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Place: The Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building,
Room LJ 162, Washington, DC
RSVP and more information

Dan Clancy, our chief engineer responsible for Google Book Search, will talk about how the settlement works and how it will help expand readers' access to millions of books. Hope to see you there.

UPDATE (4/22): Check out video of the event below.

Some questions related to Google News and the Associated Press

Yesterday I entered the following search in Google News: [Phish in mountain view]. The search results led me to click on this headline, which took me to the full story by the San Jose Mercury News about Phish's upcoming concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre.

Users like me are sent from different Google sites to newspaper websites at a rate of more than a billion clicks per month. These clicks go to news publishers large and small, domestic and international -- day and night.

And once a reader is on the newspaper's site, we work hard to help them earn revenue. Our AdSense program pays out millions of dollars to newspapers that place ads on their sites, and our goal is that our interest-based advertising technology will help newspapers make more from each click we send them by serving better, more relevant ads to their readers to generate higher returns.

The Associated Press (AP) recently issued a press release announcing plans to develop an initiative to "protect" the newspaper industry's content online. Since then, some readers, users and journalists have asked us if the AP's plan is about Google since we host complete AP articles. The answer is that it doesn't appear to pertain to Google since we host those articles in partnership with the AP. We announced that partnership in 2007 as part of an experiment in hosting articles on our site. In hosting agreements such as this, we pay news agencies and display the entire text of articles, such as this one from the AP about President Obama's visit to Turkey.

We drive traffic and provide advertising in support of all business models -- whether news sources choose to host their articles with us or on their own sites, and whether their business model is ad-supported or based on subscriptions. In all cases, for news articles we've crawled and indexed but do not host, we show users just enough to make them want to read more -- the headline, a "snippet" of a line or two of text and a link back to to the news publisher's website.

In the U.S., the doctrine of fair use enshrined in the US Copyright Act allows us to show snippets and links. The fair use doctrine protects transformative uses of content, such as indexing to make it easier to find [pdf]. Even though the Copyright Act does not grant a copyright owner a veto over such uses, it is our policy to allow any rightsholder, in this case newspaper or wire service, to remove their content from our index -- all they have to do is ask us or implement simple technical standards such as robots.txt or metatags.

As for Phish in Mountain View this summer, asking will get you nowhere because the tickets are already sold out.

India's 15th general election: tools for citizen empowerment

(Cross-posted from the Google India Blog)

At Google, we believe information is fundamentally empowering. While all of our technologies demonstrate a commitment to this guiding principle, information is especially important when a society comes together to participate in democratic elections. Beginning ten days from today, more than 700 million eligible voters in India will over the course of four weeks have the opportunity to participate in the largest democratic event in human history — India's 15th general election.

Today, along with a wide range of partners, we are happy to announce the launch of the Google India Elections Centre - available in English and in Hindi.

People from across India can use the centre to do the following:

  • Confirm their voter registration status
  • Discover their polling location
  • View their constituency on a map
  • Consume relevant election-related news, blogs, videos, and quotations
  • Evaluate the status of development in their constituency across a range of indicators
  • Learn about the background of their Member of Parliament and this year's candidates
With still more features to be added during the election, we hope the site will be an ongoing resource for analysis, governance, and democracy in India after the election.This project would not have been possible without the shared vision of a broad coalition of partners: the Association for Democratic Reforms, HT Media Limited, Indicus Analytics, the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, the Liberty Institute, and PRS Legislative Services. These groups are the true champions of promoting a more transparent democracy, and we're privileged to be able to shine a light on their work on the occasion of India's 15th Lok Sabha polls.

We're hopeful not only that the elections centre will further a culture that seeks access to information, but that it will also yield positive changes in voting patterns during the upcoming polls.

Please visit the site, select your constituency, and get started! Spread the word about what you learn and, of course, don't forget to visit the polls.

Tracking federal spending on Google Maps

Visualizing where federal tax dollars are actually being spent can be a daunting task. Consider the TARP Capital Purchase Program, through which the government has already distributed hundreds of billions of dollars to banks across the country. Or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which contains nearly a trillion dollars in spending and is several hundred pages long (not exactly beach reading).

Enter Google Maps.

This week the Treasury Department released a Google Maps mashup of TARP recipients nationwide. The mashup allows engaged citizens to easily review which local, regional, and national banks are participating in the Capital Purchase Program and how much money they've received:

View FinancialStability.gov - Transaction Data in a larger map

Last week Rep. Doris Matsui (CA) launched a new Google Maps mashup highlighting where stimulus dollars will be spent in her Sacramento-area district:

View Larger Map

Meanwhile, the GOP is using Google Maps to pinpoint congressional earmarks. Earlier this month Republican Hill staffer Tom Jones created a series of maps mashups that outline earmark spending. Here's a map outlining earmarks in the Transportation and Housing Section of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill:

View Larger Map

Jones created similar maps for the FY09 Labor, Health, and Human Services, Energy and Water, and Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bills.

It's great to see policymakers using Google Maps to make government spending more accessible to taxpayers. Do you know of other Maps mashups that are being used to track federal spending? Let us know in the comments.

Canadians: have your voice heard on Internet traffic management

Should Internet access providers be allowed to block or degrade lawful applications or content? The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is asking that question right now as they study Internet traffic management practices.

Google and a coalition of technologies companies and public interest groups have weighed into this proceeding, urging the CRTC to prohibit application or content based "throttling." Google's submission was one of many formal submissions made in this proceeding.

Now it's your turn to weigh in.

Yesterday the CRTC launched an online public consultation, open until 30 April, to solicit more public input in this proceeding.

Log in to online consultation and have your voice heard on the future of the open Internet in Canada.