Civil rights leaders call for equal access to knowledge through digitized books

Much of the world's knowledge is trapped in physical books. People fortunate enough to attend large research institutions like Stanford or the University of Michigan can access vast library collections, but people living in inner cities or rural areas have a much harder time accessing this level of knowledge.

We're hoping to help change that. Under an agreement we announced last year with authors and publishers, Google will be able to make millions of books from major research libraries more accessible for all Americans, including those in minority, disability, and other communities that have typically lacked equal access to information.

That was the focus of an event that we co-hosted this week with the Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice at Howard University School of Law. Distinguished voices from civil rights, academic, and library organizations joined Google Senior Vice President David Drummond to discuss the legal, technical, and social barriers that must be overcome to truly equalize access to knowledge.

Equalizing access is about more than one product or one company -- but we're glad that Google Books can be a part of the solution. As Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, put it:
"If there's one last frontier that we have to conquer on the road to equal opportunity in America, it's access to knowledge, access to quality public education, and access to higher education for all... The Google Book Search project is a unique contribution to that effort."

We'll be making video of the entire event available in the next few days. In the meantime, check out what Wade and our other panelists had to say about Google Books in these short videos.

Update (8/25/09): The full video of the event is now available on YouTube.

"A down payment on equal opportunity..."
-- Wade Henderson, President and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)

"Millions and millions of books that blind people could never get before -- they’ll now be able to get through digitized formats..."
-- Charles S. Brown, Esq., Legal Consultant to the President of the National Federation of the Blind

"We're very confident that the great benefits of this tool are going to be transforming in nature..."
-- Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

"We believe it is a way to eliminate that digital divide..."
-- Rhea Ballard-Thrower, Associate Professor and Director of the Law Library, Howard University School of Law

"Geographic barriers, economic barriers, language barriers – all of those things will be become diminished..."
-- Lateef Mtima, Professor of Law and Founder and Director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, Howard University School of Law
(Check out the text of Professor Mtima's remarks for the event.)

Less than 24 hours to submit your ideas for a national broadband plan

Earlier this month Google and the New America Foundation announced a special Google Moderator page where users can submit and vote on ideas for how to make high-speed Internet access more available and affordable in the United States. So far we've been overwhelmed with the creativity and enthusiasm of the responses.

In just under two weeks, more than 2,100 people from around the world have submitted more than 530 ideas and cast more than 45,300 votes. Here's a quick taste of what people are saying:

"Whatever method or process is decided for deploying broadband, it needs to support down and upstream capacities that prepare for the future, not simply serve the needs of right now."
Justin M, Turlock, CA

"We seem to have gotten a road and an electric wire to almost every building in the US, no matter how remote. Any plan that has a lesser goal than eventually attaching every building to a high-speed computer network is too small, IMHO."
Rollie, Indianapolis, IN

"This country can have free WiFi nationwide by constructing WiFi towers that are also windmills. Excess energy can be sold, providing free WiFi and helping this country with its enormous energy needs, while also providing free WiFi to the masses."
Roadrunner, Earth

But what do you think?

If you haven't already weighed in, today is your last day to submit your ideas to Google Moderator. Voting will close tonight at midnight (Eastern Time).

Over the next several days we'll be studying each and every submission, and next week we'll submit the results from Google Moderator to the official FCC record on your behalf. Stay tuned to this blog for the latest information on this and other projects designed to help bring more broadband to more Americans.

NYT editorial: Google books "holds great promise"

I'm here at Howard University this morning for our Google Book Search event, but I came across this New York Times editorial today about the settlement that I wanted to share. We may not agree with everything in it (particularly on privacy and the settlement's approach to orphan works), but I appreciated that the Times editorialists recognized that Google Books "holds great promise for increasing access to knowledge." From the editorial:

Google's effort could create new interest in millions of out-of-print books, which would be made available at no cost at public libraries. That means that a student at a community college or a freelance writer could access the same books as a Harvard professor.

At a time when publishing's economic model is threatened, there is also an important financial upside for authors and publishers. Google would charge users for accessing copyrighted books from their own computers and sell online ads, and it would give writers and publishers 63 percent of the revenue. The settlement would create a books rights registry to distribute payments.

Despite the claims otherwise by some critics of the settlement, the Times also noted that "Google's access to most books would not be exclusive since Microsoft or Joe's Online Library could cut their own deal with authors and publishers and scan books as well." Here here.

Google Book Search event this Wednesday: "Equalizing Access to Knowledge"

The Google Book Search settlement agreement will dramatically expand online access to millions of works, opening a new chapter in equalizing access to information for users nationwide.

For those of you in D.C., we hope you'll join us this Wednesday for a special forum with the Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice at Howard University School of Law that will take a closer look at what this agreement means for historically disadvantaged groups in particular:

"Equalizing Access to Knowledge"
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM ET

Howard University School of Law
President's Suite, Notre Dame Hall (enter through Houston Hall)
2900 Van Ness Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Find directions and map link here.
Click here to RSVP

David Drummond, Google's Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, will explain how the agreement will impact social justice and access to information. His keynote will be followed by a panel discussion featuring leaders from the civil rights, law, education, and business communities:

Lateef Mtima, Professor of Law, Howard University School of Law
Wade Henderson, President and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Charlie Brown, Adviser to the President, National Federation for the Blind
Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director, League of United Latin American Citizens
Rhea Ballard-Thrower, Director of the Law Library, Howard University School of Law

Hope to see you there. In the meantime, check out the settlement agreement site to learn more about this agreement and its implications for readers, writers, students, scholars, libraries, and the public at large.

The Google Books settlement and privacy

Last year, we signed a settlement agreement with authors and publishers that, if approved by the court, will unlock access to millions of books for anyone in the US. We reached another important milestone a few weeks ago, as University of Texas and University of Wisconsin-Madison announced new agreements with Google to broaden access to their collections under the settlement.

Recently, we've heard questions about our agreement and what it will mean for user privacy. Privacy is important to us, and we know it's important to our users, too. We have a strong privacy policy in place now for Google Books and for all Google products. But our settlement agreement hasn't yet been approved by the court, and the services authorized by the agreement haven't been built or even designed yet. That means it's very difficult (if not impossible) to draft a detailed privacy policy. While we know that our eventual product will build in privacy protections -- like always giving users clear information about privacy, and choices about what if any data they share when they use our services -- we don't yet know exactly how this all will work. We do know that whatever we ultimately build will protect readers' privacy rights, upholding the standards set long ago by booksellers and by the libraries whose collections are being opened to the public through this settlement.

We're thinking hard about how best to build privacy protections into the products authorized under the settlement. We've been having ongoing discussions with a wide range of privacy advocates, and we look forward to talking more with them and others throughout the industry about how to protect the privacy of people who search, browse, and buy books online.

Privacy organizations and Google have a lot to agree on: expanded, free online access to library books should be supported by continued privacy protections for readers. You can read our initial thoughts on how to do so in our FAQ. To read more about privacy at Google, visit our Privacy Center, and stay tuned for more details as we have them.

Tweeting #netneutrality

This week the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission wrapped up its hearings on Internet traffic management. Earlier in the proceeding I testified on behalf of the Open Internet Coalition (of which Google is a member) to argue that "innovation without permission" requires a robust, open Internet -- a view echoed by consumer groups, Internet policy advocates, content producers and distributors.

Fittingly, tonnes of people who would normally never follow a regulatory hearing took to the web to listen to the CRTC's live audiocast, follow the live-blog from the National Post, and tweet up a storm with the tags #crtc and #netneutrality (including me, @jacobglick). Journalist Greg O'Brien (@gregobr) tweeted, "Total listeners to the #crtc proceeding Monday: 371. Highest ever group to take in a Commission webcast, they say."

This impromptu online community was an object lesson in precisely the point we made to the Commission about the power of an open Internet to share insights, test arguments, and facilitate meaningful civic engagement -- all in cool, unexpected ways.

Submit your ideas to change the face of broadband

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Have an idea for how to expand high-speed Internet access across the United States? Here's your chance to have your voice heard.

Under the terms of the recent economic stimulus package, the Federal Communications Commission must deliver to Congress a National Broadband Plan by February 2010. Several weeks ago, we laid out Google's vision for how to make broadband Internet available and affordable for every American — and hundreds of others have already submitted comments of their own.

The FCC has called for "maximum civic engagement" in developing a broadband strategy, and we're hoping to help them to achieve just that.

We've teamed up with the New America Foundation to launch a Google Moderator page where you can submit and vote on ideas for what you think the Commission should include in its National Broadband Plan. Two weeks from now we'll take the most popular and most innovative ideas and submit them to the official record at the FCC on your behalf.

Google and the New America Foundation agree that public participation in this process is critical. Expanding access to broadband has the potential to transform communities across the country, spark economic growth, and restore American competitiveness. Now that the Commission has officially opened this proceeding, and with a new Chairman at the helm, we think it's time to give people the opportunity to learn about the issue and to weigh in with their thoughts. And as the process continues to unfold at the FCC, we'll keep you informed of additional ways to share your views and voice your ideas to the agency.

So do you have any good ideas? Submit them today on Google Moderator — and you just might help change the face of broadband in the United States.

Working with news publishers

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)

Last week, a group of newspaper and magazine publishers signed a declaration stating that "Universal access to websites does not necessarily mean access at no cost," and that they "no longer wish to be forced to give away property without having granted permission."

We agree, and that's how things stand today. The truth is that news publishers, like all other content owners, are in complete control when it comes not only to what content they make available on the web, but also who can access it and at what price. This is the very backbone of the web -- there are many confidential company web sites, university databases, and private files of individuals that cannot be accessed through search engines. If they could, the web would be much less useful.

For more than a decade, search engines have routinely checked for permissions before fetching pages from a web site. Millions of webmasters around the world, including news publishers, use a technical standard known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) to tell search engines whether or not their sites, or even just a particular web page, can be crawled. Webmasters who do not wish their sites to be indexed can and do use the following two lines to deny permission:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

If a webmaster wants to stop us from indexing a specific page, he or she can do so by adding '<meta name="googlebot" content="noindex">' to the page. In short, if you don't want to show up in Google search results, it doesn't require more than one or two lines of code. And REP isn't specific to Google; all major search engines honor its commands. We're continuing to talk with the news industry -- and other web publishers -- to develop even more granular ways for them to instruct us on how to use their content. For example, publishers whose material goes into a paid archive after a set period of time can add a simple unavailable_after specification on a page, telling search engines to remove that page from their indexes after a certain date.

Today, more than 25,000 news organizations across the globe make their content available in Google News and other web search engines. They do so because they want their work to be found and read -- Google delivers more than a billion consumer visits to newspaper web sites each month. These visits offer the publishers a business opportunity, the chance to hook a reader with compelling content, to make money with advertisements or to offer online subscriptions. If at any point a web publisher feels as though we're not delivering value to them and wants us to stop indexing their content, they're able to do so quickly and effectively.

Some proposals we've seen from news publishers are well-intentioned, but would fundamentally change -- for the worse -- the way the web works. Our guiding principle is that whatever technical standards we introduce must work for the whole web (big publishers and small), not just for one subset or field. There's a simple reason behind this. The Internet has opened up enormous possibilities for education, learning, and commerce so it's important that search engines makes it easy for those who want to share their content to do so -- while also providing robust controls for those who want to limit access.

Update on 7/20/2009: The word "crawling" in the fourth paragraph has been replaced with "indexing."

A new view of

In late May, the Obama administration launched, which provides access to raw data from federal agencies. Access to this data is useful, but to unleash its power you need tools for analyzing and visualizing it.

We recently launched Google Fusion Tables in Google Labs, which allows you to upload information from sources like to the cloud, share it with collaborators, visualize it in tools like Google Maps, and embed it across the Web.

Check out my post on the Google Public Sector Blog to learn more and to read about how I used Google Fusion Tables to turn raw data on recent earthquakes into helpful visualizations like the one below.

Is free an antitrust issue?

Just after Chris Anderson spoke at our D.C. office this week about the power of free, I came across this interesting piece he wrote for raising some provocative questions about whether providing Internet services to users for free could pose an antitrust issue. So provocative, in fact, that I thought it was worth a reply.

Chris wrote:
But companies still have to make money, so there are limits to how much they can provide free. Not a problem for Google. Its core advertising business is so powerful, dominant and profitable that it can subsidize almost everything else the company does, using Free to get customers in new markets. Is that fair, when so many of its competitors don't have a similar golden goose at the core of their operations?
Setting aside the fact Google accounts for 3% of all U.S. advertising revenue, cross-subsidization is of course quite common in many companies (as Chris details in his new book), with certain products subsidizing others (sometimes known as "loss leaders"). No matter how successful or profitable the subsidizing product is, the fact remains that cross-subsidization itself has never been viewed as an antitrust problem. If a company chooses to use its profits from one product to help provide another product to consumers at low cost, that's generally a good thing.
The analogy is something like the semiconductor battles of the 1980s, when Japanese companies were accused of "dumping" (selling for under cost) memory chips in the U.S. market to drive out U.S. competitors.
Unfortunately, this analogy is flawed, as anti-dumping cases can only take place between countries and under trade laws. They have nothing to do with antitrust and don't apply to private companies. And even if anti-dumping laws did apply to private companies, the standard remedy in dumping cases is to have the companies involved charge more for their products. Does Chris -- who of course is an advocate for free -- really think that Google should start charging users to perform searches?

There have been claims made against private companies for so-called "predatory pricing" tactics, where the concern is that companies will use cheap goods to drive out competitors and then jack up the prices once the competition is gone. But again, even if you think this is a valid antitrust issue (and many commentators don't), almost no one believes that Google would or could start charging exorbitant prices for products like search and Gmail.
Could Free be OK for little companies, but not really big ones? How much market share would you have to have in one market to disallow you from using Free in another?
It is true that if a company has a dominant product, it may run afoul of antitrust laws if it "ties" that product to another -- for instance, by requiring customers who buy that product to buy another product as well. When a company provides products for free on a stand-alone basis, however, it's not requiring anyone to buy anything. It may take business away from other companies trying to charge users for similar products, but that's hardly an antitrust issue.

Keep in mind that competition laws are concerned with what's best for consumers, not for competing companies, and there's little doubt that from a consumer perspective, free products are usually a great thing.
As entrepreneur Alex Iskold has pointed out, Google is using the profits from its search advertising dominance to fund its competition with Microsoft in word processors and spreadsheets (Google Docs).

Microsoft, meanwhile, is doing just the opposite: using the profits from its dominance of word processors and spreadsheets (Microsoft Office) to subsidize its competition with Google in search (Microsoft Bing). In each case, the companies are using a highly profitable paid product to make another product free, on the hopes of gaining market share by taking price off the table.
Rather than exemplifying a competitive problem, Chris's example makes the point that in fact there is robust competition, between two companies pursuing similar strategies to win over users from each other. That's competition in action!

Indonesia's search for president

Earlier this week Scott Hartley at the Berkman Center shared with me this great post he wrote about the presidential elections in Indonesia. In the post he notes that although only 5.4 percent of Indonesians have access to the Internet, search trends on Google suggested that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (popularly known as SBY) would be re-elected:

Unofficial results from Wednesday's election indicate that Scott's analysis was correct -- President Yudhoyono won by a landslide.

Indonesian voters also discussed controversial issues on Facebook and posted videos like the one below to YouTube, urging each other to get out the vote.

If Internet patterns in Indonesia are any indication, just imagine what might happen to political participation and electoral processes around the world as Internet connectivity spreads.

Chris Anderson on the power of free

There's been no shortage of discussion over Chris Anderson's new book Free, in which he makes the controversial claim that the future of business will be to give away content, products, and services. During his Google D.C. Talk earlier this week, Chris explained how new business models like freemium and other approaches to advertising will change the face of global commerce.

Check out video of the event on YouTube:

And as you might expect, Free is free -- at least online. Check it out on Google Books:

Interest-based advertising: our materials for Capitol Hill

As we testified a few weeks ago, we are proud that our launch of interest-based advertising incorporated consumer-friendly features that provide real transparency and choice for our users — such as ads labeled 'Ads by Google,' the Ads Preferences Manager, and the choice to opt out of interest-based ads altogether.

We put together the slides below to help Members of Congress and their staffers understand the ways in which we incorporated privacy protections into our products. Though we've distributed these widely on Capitol Hill, we wanted to share them with our blog readers too:

Interest Based Advertising Slides

We also distributed this two-page summary of interest-based advertising for policymakers:

Interest Based Advertising Two Page Summary

Finally, we shared a collection of what independent observers and experts have said about our launch of interest-based advertising:

Interest Based Advertising What People Are Saying

Best practices for online child safety

Protecting children online is a shared responsibility. The PointSmart.ClickSafe. Task Force, of which we're a member, is an important example of how industry leaders, safety advocates, and community organizations are working together keep kids safe online.

This morning the Task Force released its Recommendations for Best Practices for Online Safety and Literacy, the culmination of a year-long effort.

The most important and timely recommendation from the report (which previous online safety task forces all agree upon) is the need for digital media literacy and safety education that empowers kids, parents, and educators. It's important that kids of all ages learn what it mean to be a digital citizen and how to navigate the online world safely, and it's equally important that parents and educators have the resources and online tools to help kids make the right choices online. That's why we support the SAFE Internet Act, introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), which would establish a $175 million dollar competitive grant program for state and local education agencies and nonprofit organizations to promote Internet safety education.

For our part, Google's approach to child safety has three primary elements. First, we empower families with powerful and innovative tools to create a safe experience online, like SafeSearch, community flagging tools, and granular privacy controls for our products. Second, we partner with law enforcement and industry partners to stop illegal content and activity online -- we're especially proud of our work with NCMEC and the technology we provided them to fight child exploitation online. Third, we support educational efforts -- both Google and YouTube have developed online safety resources for parents and kids, including a Online Family Safety Guide, and we continue to work and support many of the non-profit organizations doing great work in this space including FOSI, NCMEC, Common Sense Media, and iKeepSafe.

We're committed to helping keep our users safe online, and we look forward to continuing our work with the Task Force to explore and share new and innovative ways to do just that.

President Obama ate here

Attention D.C.-area foodies: Alex Nicholson over at Brightest Young Things used the My Maps feature to make a Google Map of the area restaurants visited by the Obamas. Who knows where the first family's culinary explorations will take them next?

View Obama Ate Here in a larger map

Recapping last week's Google D.C. Talk on cybersecurity

To help spark ideas and stimulate discussion following the release of the President's cyberspace policy review, last Friday we teamed up with the Center for a New American Security to bring together a panel of experts representing government, military, and industry for a Google D.C. Talk, "Developing a National Cybersecurity Strategy."

Included in the President's action plan is the goal of developing a "strategy to expand and train the workforce, including attracting and retaining cybersecurity expertise in the Federal government" -- a key point we discussed during Friday's event. Philip Reitinger of the Department of Homeland Security noted that we need to expand the talent pool, which will likely require getting young people excited about the possibilities of working in IT.

I'm convinced that there should be a long-term focus on educating and cultivating future computer scientists (including putting cybersecurity in the curriculum at every step). Students are introduced to foreign languages as early as grammar school -- why not also introduce them to the basics of code?

Beyond K-12, we should expand programs like the National Science Foundation's Scholarship For Service, which provides support to undergraduate and graduate students focusing on information assurance. Thoughtful investments in programs that support computer science education today will help us to build a strong pipeline for the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

The panel also discussed the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, which some had argued would give the President the authority to shut down the Internet. Ellen Doneski, Chief of Staff for the Senate Commerce Committee, addressed these concerns head-on and explained that the language in the bill will be rewritten with input from stakeholders.

Check out video from the event to see what our panelists had to say:

Self-regulatory principles for behavioral advertising

As our Deputy General Counsel Nicole Wong mentioned in her congressional testimony a few weeks ago, we've been a part of a broad effort over the past several months to develop a set of self-regulatory principles for online behavioral advertising. In fact, we were one of the first companies to be involved in this discussion.

After a lot of discussion and hard work among a diverse group of companies and associations, those principles were released today, and I think the end result will be even more transparency and choice for Internet users about how their information is used.

When we launched our own interest-based advertising product in March, we worked hard to include several innovative features to give users more control and information -- including ads labeled "Ads by Google," a tool called the Ads Preferences Manager (which lets users view, add, and remove the categories that are used to show them interest-based ads), and the choice to opt out of interest-based ads altogether.

One of the key strengths of the principles is the fact that they apply to a broad range of companies participating in online advertising -- advertisers, publishers, and ad networks. Of course, for any self-regulatory effort to be effective, there has to be some kind of enforcement process. Between now and early 2010 -- when the principles are expected to be implemented -- the Better Business Bureau and Direct Marketing Association, two of the groups involved, will work to set up that process to make sure it has real teeth.

By applying technology in new ways -- like a strong opt-out mechanism, and tools like the Ads Preferences Manager -- we can help ensure that Internet users are active participants in their online experience by providing them with more information and more control.