Response to AT&T's letter to FCC on Google Voice

This afternoon AT&T filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission, alleging that Google Voice is preventing its users from making outbound calls to certain phone numbers with inflated access charges, and asking the Commission to intervene.

Here's the quick background: Local telephone carriers charge long-distance companies for originating and terminating calls to and from their networks. Certain local carriers in rural areas charge AT&T and other long-distance companies especially high rates to connect calls to their networks. Sometimes these local carriers partner and share revenue with adult chat services, conference calling centers, party lines, and others that are able to attract lots of incoming phone calls to their networks.

Under the common carrier laws, AT&T and other traditional phone companies are required to connect these calls. In the past they've argued that these rural carriers are abusing the system to "establish grossly excessive access charges under false pretenses," and to "offer kickbacks to operators of pornographic chat lines and other calling services." (This is a complicated issue, but these articles from USA Today and the Associated Press explain it well.)

We agree with AT&T that the current carrier compensation system is badly flawed, and that the single best answer is for the FCC to take the necessary steps to fix it.

So how does any of this relate to Google Voice?

Google Voice's goal is to provide consumers with free or low-cost access to as many advanced communications features as possible. In order to do this, Google Voice does restrict certain outbound calls from our Web platform to these high-priced destinations. But despite AT&T's efforts to blur the distinctions between Google Voice and traditional phone service, there are many significant differences:
  • Unlike traditional carriers, Google Voice is a free, Web-based software application, and so not subject to common carrier laws.
  • Google Voice is not intended to be a replacement for traditional phone service -- in fact, you need an existing land or wireless line in order to use it. Importantly, users are still able to make outbound calls on any other phone device.
  • Google Voice is currently invitation-only, serving a limited number of users.
AT&T is trying to make this about Google's support for an open Internet, but the comparison just doesn't fly. The FCC's open Internet principles apply only to the behavior of broadband carriers -- not the creators of Web-based software applications. Even though the FCC does not have jurisdiction over how software applications function, AT&T apparently wants to use the regulatory process to undermine Web-based competition and innovation.

* Note: This blog post was updated at 4:55 PM ET to clarify the FCC's open Internet principles.

Eric Schmidt talks tech and the economy at the G-20 summit

On the eve of the G-20 summit, where world leaders are gathering in an environment of economic uncertainty, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was in Pittsburgh to talk about what futurist Alvin Toffler described as "that great, growling engine of change -- technology" and its impact on economic growth.

We'll be posting video of Eric's speech shortly, but here are some of the key observations he shared at a speech before the Pittsburgh Technology Council and other Pittsburghers:
  • History has shown us that cutting-edge technology and the free, open flow of information are key drivers of economic growth. Call it "Gutenberg's Law": there's a clear correlation between the amount of information available to the average citizen and the economic growth and progress of that citizen's country. From the printing press to the telegraph to the Internet, each has enabled more exchange of ideas and sharing of information, resulting in a corresponding boost to economic progress.
  • Today, we are only at the very cusp of the technological revolution that the rise of the Internet will bring. Technology is changing almost everything about how we live, work, and play. Networks are getting ever-faster, data is being generated at an exponential rate, and devices are becoming faster and more powerful, able to store and do more even as they shrink. That means changes in the way we connect and communicate; changes in how we generate, find, and use information; and changes in how we interact with business and government.
  • Technology has driven down barriers to entry in terms of knowledge, scale, cost, and geography, leading to increased competition on a global scale. Today's entrepreneurs can leverage the Internet and technology in a way that only the largest multinational could afford 10 or 15 years ago. Size is no barrier to competition. This trend isn't unique to the West -- it's visible all around the world, especially when it comes to clever business applications for mobile.
What does it all mean? The G-20 should look across the globe -- from Pittsburgh to Nairobi -- and recognize how technology and innovation can help us pull this economy up out of the morass, embrace the disruption, and try to build and sustain long-term economic growth.

Stay tuned for video of Eric's speech.

EDIT (9/24/09): Check out video of the speech below.

Celebrating OneWebDay

As we turn the page from summer to fall, it seems appropriate to pause for just one day to celebrate the unique awesomeness of the Web.

OneWebDay -- September 22nd -- was first held three years ago to commemorate and support the World Wide Web as a resource that is revolutionizing communications, connecting billions of people across the globe, and empowering users in unprecedented ways. I was fortunate enough back in 2005 to be part of the small group of folks, including Susan Crawford, David Weinberger, and David Isenberg, who first talked about putting together an international day of celebration for the Net.

So how exactly does one celebrate OneWebDay? Like the Web itself, OneWebDay is run from the bottom-up, so the choice is entirely yours. You can donate a computer. Learn more about Internet policy issues. Edit a Wikipedia article. Blog, tweet, and submit YouTube videos about why you love the Web (make sure to use the #OWD09 hashtag). Change your facebook or twitter pic. Or, if you're into politics (and especially if you're not), contact the Federal Communications Commission or your congressional representative to propose your favorite project to enable bigger, better broadband access to the Net. Mine currently happens to be enabling fiber to the library. The point is: it's up to you.

There are also scheduled meet-ups and events in cities across the country and around the world. Here in Washington, D.C., for example, users are invited to join me and many others to participate in a live discussion on the future of the Internet on Capitol Hill.

Yesterday, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission outlined his plan to protect open and robust access to the Internet. Whatever your own views on how best to preserve and promote its unique openness and freedom, there's no denying that the World Wide Web has changed our world for the better. It's well worth taking one day a year to celebrate that fact.

Google D.C. Talk Oct. 9: LOLcats, Cheezburgers, and FAILs

Our next Google D.C. Talk is coming up on October 9, and it should be a fun one.

Two years ago, the blog I Can Has Cheezburger introduced Internet surfers to LOLcats — cute kitten photos with misspelled captions — and a user-generated phenomenon was born. Since then, the entrepreneur who owns the site, Ben Huh, has started more than 20 other user-generated sites, including FAIL blog (photos of flops), GraphJam (life's inanities captured in graphs and pie charts), This Is Photobomb (photo interlopers), and Totally Looks Like (funny doppelgangers).

Beyond capturing the zeitgeist and making people laugh, Huh has turned these sites into a profitable business attracting more than 10 million visitors a month. But what can policymakers learn from the success of user-submitted content? On October 9, Huh will explain how "making the world happy for 5 minutes a day" is a viable business model; what motivates people to create and remix their own content for others to enjoy; what the rise of LOLcats means for our culture; and how the copyright laws impact the spread of user-generated content.

Google D.C. Talks Presents:
LOLcats, Cheezburgers, and FAILs:
Building an Online Media Empire by Making People Happy
A Conversation with Ben Huh, CEO, Cheezburger Network
Friday, October 9, 2009
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Google D.C. Office
1101 New York Avenue, NW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC

Have a question for Ben? Visit to submit it through Google Moderator.

FCC announces plan to protect access to an open Internet

During a speech at the Brookings Institution this morning, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined a proposal for explicit rules that would protect consumer access to an open Internet. The proposed rules would preserve "network neutrality," preventing broadband-based Internet providers from discriminating against certain services, applications, or viewpoints on the Web, and requiring providers to be transparent about their network management practices.

To some it may seem like an esoteric issue, but this boils down to protecting the Internet as an engine for innovation, economic growth, social discourse, and the free flow of ideas. Preserving non-discriminatory access also has the virtue of protecting consumer choice, ensuring that an Internet access provider cannot block fair access to any application provider on the Internet. We could not be more pleased to see Chairman Genachowski take up this mantle, and we look forward to working with the Commission as it finalizes its plans.

The Internet was built as an open platform, which means that the creators of new services and content do not need to seek permission from carriers or pay special fees to be seen online. This "innovation without permission" effect has allowed countless individuals and companies to offer new applications to the world, businesses large and small to open shop online, and anyone with an Internet connection to share their opinions freely in the marketplace of ideas. It's not until recently, in the wake of dogmatic deregulation, that this open environment has come under threat.

If consumers had a wide choice of broadband service providers, preserving an open Internet might not be such a critical issue. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans have few (if any) choices in selecting a provider. As a result, these providers are in a position to influence whether and how consumers and producers can use the on-ramps to the Internet -- and we've already seen several examples of discriminatory actions or threats that impair openness.

Allowing a handful of broadband carriers to determine what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the features that have made the Internet such a success, and could permanently compromise the Internet as a platform for the free exchange of information, commerce, and ideas. By outlining explicit open Internet requirements, the FCC is seeking to prevent this from happening.

There's no doubt that running an Internet service provider is a complicated business. As we've said in the past, we believe that providers should have the flexibility to manage traffic congestion and malware on their networks in non-discriminatory ways. They should not, however, be in the anti-competitive business of picking winners and losers. For example, carriers should not be allowed to degrade access to competitors' web sites, to favor access to a corporate partner or their own value-added services to the detriment of a Mom and Pop shop, or to discriminate against protected political speech.

The Internet was designed to maximize user choice and competition, and we've all benefited immensely as a result. Today the FCC took an important step in protecting that environment and ensuring that the Internet remains a platform for innovation, economic growth, and free expression.

Our complete letter to the FCC regarding Google Voice for iPhone

Back in July, the FCC sent letters to Apple, AT&T, and Google asking about the rejection of the Google Voice for iPhone app.

When we submitted our letter on August 21, we asked the FCC to redact certain portions that involved sensitive commercial conversations between two companies -- namely, a description of e-mails, telephone conversations, and in-person meetings between executives at Google and Apple.

Shortly afterward, several individuals and organizations submitted Freedom of Information Act requests with the FCC seeking access to this information. While we could have asked the FCC to oppose those requests, in light of Apple's decision to make its own letter fully public and in the interest of transparency, we decided to drop our request for confidentiality. Today the FCC posted the full content of our letter to their website (PDF).

We continue to work with Apple and others to bring users the best mobile Google experience possible.

Announcing our Small Business Toolkit

It's no secret that Google started out as a small business operating out of a Silicon Valley garage. We've consistently supported small business growth because we understand that our success depends on the success of our small business partners. With that in mind, earlier this year we launched the Small Business Network to help small businesses track legislation that might affect their growth.

Today, we're pleased to announce that we've redesigned our Small Business Network website to serve as a product toolkit in addition to a policy monitor. Entrepreneurs will be able to learn about products that help them run their businesses more efficiently and exchange ideas and best practices with other entrepreneurs, all while keeping up with legislation pending in federal and state governments that could affect their bottom line.

Over the next few months, we'll also be traveling the country, bringing free interactive workshops -- or as we call them, "Small Business 101s" -- to local businesses across America. These workshops are intended to help entrepreneurs become more familiar with online tools proven to help them succeed. Our next event is on September 22, 2009 at our Pittsburgh office. If you're in the area and would like to join us, please sign up here.

We're working to come up with products, services and programs that will help small businesses start up, stay up, and grow, because it's obvious that small business is the backbone of the economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses have generated more then 64 percent of the new jobs created over the last 15 years. Today, small businesses also pay 44 percent of the total payroll in the United States and hire 40 percent of the high-tech workers in this country -- like scientists, engineers and computer programmers.

As our country recovers from the recession, it's important to remember that many Americans will continue to face a long and difficult road as they struggle to pay bills or find work over the next several months. Enabling and promoting small business growth is a vital part of the solution.

Gov 2.0 Summit videos

(Cross-posted from the Google Public Sector Blog.)

If you weren't able to make the Gov 2.0 Summit last week in DC, you're in luck - videos of most presentations are now online.

A few Googlers had the chance to participate as speakers.

John Markoff of the New York Times led a discussion about developing an effective platform with TCP/IP creator and Googler Vint Cerf, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Facebook's Tim Sparapani.

And as we mentioned on a previous post, Tim O'Reilly interviewed Google's Chief Economist Hal Varian about how government can take advantage of real time data and economic indicators.

We'll post an update when Ola Rosling's presentation on public data search and visualization is online.

What's up with Measurement Lab

(Editor's note: We're pleased to welcome Sascha Meinrath and Robb Topolski of the Open Technology Initiative (OTI) as guest bloggers. As a part of The New America Foundation, OTI works to support policy and regulatory measures that further open technologies and communications networks.)

Eight months ago, we joined a group of researchers in launching Measurement Lab (M-Lab), an open platform for researchers to deploy Internet measurement tools.

We created M-Lab in order to help measure the actual performance of broadband Internet connections. Is your connection as fast as advertised? Where are the bottlenecks that impact VoIP or video performance? Answers to these sorts of questions will help users to make informed decisions in the market, and help governments around the globe to craft sound broadband policy.

So, how's it doing?

To date, more than 150,000 Internet users from around the world have used M-Lab to test the performance of their broadband connection and share information with researchers.

Now M-Lab is hitting the Mediterranean. We're thrilled to announce that the EETT -- Greece's telecommunications regulator -- and the Greek Research and Technology Network (GRnet) have contributed servers and connectivity for a new M-Lab node in Athens, Greece, and will collaborate with M-Lab to help improve the usability of the platform's tools.

EETT has already been working to provide useful information about broadband networks to consumers, through their central Web portal. EETT plans to incorporate data collected through M-Lab into this map, so that users will be able to compare broadband providers' and their Internet connection's performance across several dimensions.

In addition to EETT and GRnet, Voxel also has joined as an M-Lab partner, providing server nodes and connectivity in New York City and Amsterdam. Since launch, we've added many new servers, for a total of 38 between the U.S. and Europe.

We've also added two new tools, PathLoad2 and ShaperProbe. PathLoad2 allows users to test their available bandwidth (the maximum bit rate you can send to a network link before it gets congested), and ShaperProbe detects whether the ISP reduces the speed of a download or an upload after it begins.

We're happy about M-Lab's successful beginning, but it's only the beginning. The platform and its tools are still very much in beta, and we continue efforts to improve them.

In the coming months we're aiming to make the collected data publicly available and accessible, improve the user experience and stability of our tools, and expand the availability of the site globally. Stay tuned, and in the meantime we hope you'll run an M-Lab test on your own broadband connection.

Introducing Google for the Public Sector

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog.)

The 2008 elections demonstrated how technology can increase political participation, and now we're beginning to see the power of Web 2.0 come to government.

On the heels of last week's Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, D.C., we're excited to launch Google for the Public Sector, a one-stop shop of tools and tips that local, state and federal government officials can use to help promote transparency and increase citizen participation.

The site helps government agencies:
  • Make your website, and the information it offers, easier to find. For example, in less than 50 technical staff hours, Arizona's Government Information Technology Agency made hundreds of thousands of public records and other webpages "crawlable" to search engines and visible in Google search results.
  • Visualize your information and tell your story in Google Earth & Maps to the hundreds of millions of people who use them. The State Department runs an interactive Google Map of Secretary Clinton's travels, which shows where she has been and includes photos and videos.
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, nearly four out of five American Internet users go online to find government information. Technology will help play a key role in making this information accessible, useful and transparent.

Google Apps and Government

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Enterprise Blog.)

Everyone benefits from cloud computing, though few stand to benefit more than government. The cloud helps agencies at all levels increase productivity, cut costs, keep pace with technology innovation, and become more open and transparent with their citizens.

That's why we were pleased to join other industry leaders today at NASA's Ames Research Center to hear Vivek Kundra, the CIO of the US Federal Government, announce the launch of is an online storefront that makes it easy for federal agencies to browse and purchase cloud-based IT services from a variety of service providers, including Google. The cloud is coming of age, and we applaud the Obama Administration's efforts to ensure our government realizes its many advantages.

We also want to do our part to make it easier for government to transition to cloud computing. We recognize that government agencies have unique regulatory and compliance requirements for IT systems, and cloud computing is no exception. So we've invested a lot of time in understanding government's needs and how they relate to cloud computing. To help meet those requirements we're taking two important steps:
  • FISMA certification for Google Apps. In July, we announced our intent to secure certification for Google Apps to demonstrate compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), the law defining security requirements that must be met by all US Federal government information systems. Our FISMA process is nearing completion. We will submit a Certification and Accreditation (C&A) package to the U.S. Government before the end of this year. Upon review and approval of the Google Apps C&A package, agencies will be able to deploy Google Apps knowing that it is authorized to operate under FISMA.
  • Dedicated Google cloud for government customers in the US. Today, we're excited to announce our intent to create a government cloud, which we expect to become operational in 2010. Offering the same services and features as our existing commercial cloud (such as Google Apps), this dedicated environment within existing Google facilities in the US will serve the unique needs of US federal, state, and local governments. It is similar to a "Community Cloud" as defined by the National Institute for Science and Technology. The government cloud will allow Google to manage and meet additional government policy requirements beyond FISMA.
We look forward to working with governments across the country on these exciting initiatives in the months ahead.

More videos from last week's Google Book Search hearing

I thought I'd share a few more interesting YouTube clips from last week's hearing on "Competition and Commerce in Digital Books."

Chairman John Conyers explained that thanks to the Google Books program, "a library will be available in every household with an Internet connection -- this could be the greatest innovation in book publishing since the Gutenberg press."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren explained the history of orphan works legislation and argued, "as with all antitrust and copyright issues, there are competitors who sometimes try and seek a business advantage out of a dispute; it's important for us... to separate out that kind of squabbling from the actual legal issues that are before us."

Rep. Brad Sherman argued, "I think the only thing that's irresponsible is to tell the people of the world they're not going to have access to all the knowledge in all the books for which authors cannot be found. [...] This knowledge needs to be made available and I hope that we do that as quickly as possible."

Rep. Mel Watt argued, "the court can resolve this and in the meantime hopefully [Congress] will do something on orphan works."

Introducing Liberate your data!

Imagine you want to move out of your apartment. When you ask your landlord about the terms of your previous lease, he says that you are free to leave at any time; however, you cannot take all of your things with you - not your photos, your keepsakes, or your clothing. If you're like most people, a restriction like this may cause you to rethink moving altogether. Not only is this a bad situation for you as the tenant, but it's also detrimental to the housing industry as a whole, which no longer has incentive to build better apartments at all.

Although this may seem like a strange analogy, this pretty accurately describes the situation my team, Google's Data Liberation Front, is working hard to combat from an engineering perspective. We're a small team of Google Chicago engineers (named after a Monty Python skit about the Judean People's Front) that aims to make it easy for our users to transfer their personal data in and out of Google's services by building simple import and export functions. Our goal is to "liberate" data so that consumers and businesses using Google products always have a choice when it comes to the technology they use.

What does product liberation look like? Said simply, a liberated product is one which has built-in features that make it easy (and free) to remove your data from the product in the event that you'd like to take it elsewhere.

At the heart of this lies our strong commitment to an open web run on open standards. We think open is better than closed -- not because closed is inherently bad, but because when it's easy for users to leave your product, there's a sense of urgency to improve and innovate in order to keep your users. When your users are locked in, there's a strong temptation to be complacent and focus less on making your product better.

Many web services make it difficult to leave their services - you have to pay them for exporting your data, or jump through all sorts of technical hoops -- for example, exporting your photos one by one, versus all at once. We believe that users - not products - own their data, and should be able to quickly and easily take that data out of any product without a hassle. We'd rather have loyal users who use Google products because they're innovative - not because they lock users in. You can think of this as a long-term strategy to retain loyal users, rather than the short-term strategy of making it hard for people to leave.

We've already liberated over half of all Google products, from our popular blogging platform Blogger, to our email service Gmail, and Google developer tools including App Engine. In the upcoming months, we also plan to liberate Google Sites and Google Docs (batch-export).

Feel free to take a deeper look into product liberation at, a website we're launching today which is dedicated to explaining the Data Liberation Front and the products we've liberated.

If you'd like to contribute suggestions for services that you think need to be liberated, please do so on our Data Liberation Moderator page. We're also on Twitter @dataliberation.

What technology can do for economic recovery

Later this month, members of the G-20 will travel to Pittsburgh to talk about the health of the international economy and the institutions that manage it.

Now's your chance to have your voice heard by joining Google CEO Eric Schmidt in a discussion on what technology can do for economic recovery.

We're hosting this talk with the Pittsburgh Technology Council on Wednesday, September 23 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. If you'll be in town, click here for more information on joining us.

Got a question for Eric but can't make it to PA? Submit your question now through Google Moderator or vote on the questions that others submit -- we'll ask the top rated questions at the event.

Google Books hearing: congressional reaction and behind the scenes video

There have been a few stories written already about this morning's House Judiciary hearing and David Drummond's announcement about opening up the Google Books program to even more competition.

Of course, everyone expected that some of the witnesses would praise the agreement and others would criticize it. But one of the most interesting things about the hearing were the reactions from Members of Congress. We gathered a few from news reports and our notes (unfortunately there's no official transcript available yet):

Rep. John Conyers, Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
“The settlement has, in my view, has been fair to copyright holders.” (Wall Street Journal) "A library available to every household with an Internet connection -- this could be the greatest innovation in book publishing since the Gutenberg press." (CNET) "Google is in this position not because they have engaged in anticompetitive behavior, but because they have built a better mousetrap in the eyes of mousetrap purchasers." (our notes)

Rep. Zoe Lofgren
"What I look at in this settlement is really the private sector achieving what we failed to achieve [with orphan works legislation]... I own a Kindle and I use it all the time, but one of the things that we're going to see here is for the first time some competition for Amazon because if we have an open source effort and a clearance of rights, you're going to have for the first time some heavy-duty competition." (our notes)

Rep. Brad Sherman
"I think the only thing that's irresponsible is to tell the people of the world they're not going to have access to all the knowledge in all the books for which authors cannot be found. That's what's irresponsible. Now when Congress doesn't act, maybe that's irresponsible. If you try to prevent others from acting, that may be irresponsible. If you choose not to act yourself, that's irresponsible. The overriding message here is this knowledge needs to be made available and I hope that we do that as quickly as possible. (our notes)

Rep. Lamar Smith
"[The settlement is a] novel and innovative way for people to acquire knowledge" (our notes)

Rep. Mel Watt

"The best protection of the prerogatives of the legislative branch is for us to legislate. Since we have haven't done very effectively the legislation on the orphaned works, it's hard for me to condemn the courts to have a case before it that determines what can be done and can't be done with orphaned works." (CNET)

We also filmed this behind the scenes video at the hearing. Check out the commentary from Chris Danielsen from the National Federation for the Blind, Judith Platt from the Association of American Publishers, Alan Davidson from Google's public policy team, and Dan Clancy, engineering director for Google Books.

Congress examines the future of digital books

Our Senior VP for Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond is testifying this morning at today's House Judiciary hearing on "Competition and Commerce in Digital Books", and here's some of what he'll say about the Google Books settlement:
  • Nothing about the settlement changes our firm belief that copying for the purpose of indexing is a fair use that is encouraged by existing copyright law precedents.
  • The settlement is structured to make it easier for anyone – including Google’s competitors – to clear rights and license out-of-print books. Nothing in it makes it any more difficult for others to license these books.
  • The settlement mostly affects only a very small segment of the book world – in-copyright, out-of-print books, which represent less than three percent of the commercial book market. Even though commercial demand may be low, we still believe it’s important to our culture and our literary history for people to be able to find and read these books, and for rightsholders to be able to market and sell them.
  • The settlement is a strong complement to, and not a substitute for, orphan works legislation, which Google supports. An “orphaned” book is an abandoned book. Many out-of-print books, however, are not abandoned, and the registry created by the settlement will resolve legal disputes between authors and publishers over digital rights for older books.
You can read David’s written testimony, letters of support written to the court, what people have been saying about the settlement, and the full settlement agreement.

We believe strongly in an open and competitive market for digital books. That’s why we worked hard with authors, publishers, and libraries to create a settlement that will provide rightsholders with choice and compensation, lower barriers for other entrants, and complement orphan works legislative efforts.

UPDATE (11:25 a.m. ET): I'm at the hearing, and David just made a new announcement as part of our commitment to a competitive market for digital books.

He announced that for the out-of-print books (including orphan works) being made available through the Google Books settlement, we will let any book retailer sell access to those books. Google will host the digital books online, and retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore will be able to sell access to users on any Internet-connected device they choose. Retailers can also pursue their own digitization efforts of out-of-print books in parallel.

In essence, this extends our initiative announced earlier this summer -- which allows publishers in our Partner Program to market their in-print works through Google Books -- to out-of-print books included in the settlement.

UPDATE (9/11/09): Check out the video of David's testimony below.

Helping create responsible digital citizens

With more and more kids going online, whether to connect over social networking sites, mingle in chat rooms or play games, it's become increasingly important for families, schools and service providers to work together to ensure that the younger generation understands their responsibilities while they explore the virtual world.

A few weeks ago, Google participated in the 21st Annual Crimes Against Children Conference in Dallas, where over 3,500 members of law enforcement, child advocacy groups, the tech industry and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) convened to share ideas, discuss strategies and explore new technologies designed to combat the many and varied forms of crimes against children. We had the opportunity to describe some of the positive steps Google is taking to educate and safeguard minors who use our products and services, as well as the unique ways we support the individuals on our staff who do child exploitation-related work.

According to a recent NCMEC study in patterns and trends in online child victimization, the past few years have seen a 6% increase in reports of kids providing images and videos of themselves when asked by online acquaintances; sending naked photos of themselves through text messages ("sexting"); and cyber-bullying. This new trend underscores the need to educate our younger users, their families and teachers on ways to create and enjoy safe online experiences.

We're doing our part by working with child safety organizations and law enforcement around the globe to spread positive messages about life online. For example, in mid-September, we're launching a global training program on YouTube to help teens teach other teens about these issues. This is just one step among many that we're taking to help create a generation of responsible digital citizens.

Voices of support for the Google Books settlement

We've spent a lot of time with authors, publishers, academics, civil rights groups and other communities this summer discussing how the Google Books settlement will impact them. We've met individually with a number of organizations and participated in their events. And we've hosted our own forums across the country.

Yesterday, we took part in another call with even more groups, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Federation of the Blind, the United States Students Association and others, who together voiced their support for the agreement.

These groups, along with many others we've heard from in past months, represent a large and diverse collection of many millions of people, and they believe, like we do, that providing more access to more books is of critical importance. They have voiced their support through videos, op-eds, and tweets, as well as through statements sent directly to the Court.

In editorials, The New York Times and the Washington Post have echoed the importance of increasing access to information. And just this week, The Economist weighed in with its support for the approval of the settlement and cited the benefits for authors, publishers, libraries and researchers "from Manhattan to Mumbai."

We continue to be inspired by these stories, and we've gathered them all on a new site that can be found here. We know this is a complex issue, and we want to make sure all of these voices are heard. As we get closer to the court date for the settlement approval, we anticipate there will be even stories more to share. And we'll make sure to add them to this site.

An update on Google Books and privacy

We're excited about the wide range of support that the Google Books settlement has received. Some people have asked how Google's privacy practices apply to Books and the settlement, and, last month, we published an extensive FAQ.

Since last spring, we've had detailed discussions with a number of groups about our privacy practices within Google Books as well as some of our preliminary thoughts about what privacy protections we want to build into services authorized by our settlement agreement. As part of our outreach, we talked to Federal Trade Commission staff to hear their thoughts and answer their questions on privacy and Books. Rather than limit our conversations to the FTC and other specific organizations, though, we wanted to share the results of our exchange with the wider public by releasing a formal Privacy Policy for Google Books, and by highlighting a letter we recently sent to the FTC on Google Books and privacy.

While Google Books has always been covered by the general Privacy Policy for all of Google's services, we understand that the privacy of reading records is especially important to readers and libraries. We know that users want to understand how Google's privacy practices apply to Books today, and what will happen after the settlement. To provide all users with a clear understanding of our practices, and in response to helpful comments about needing to be clearer about the Books product from the FTC and others, we wanted to highlight key provisions of the main Google Privacy Policy in the context of the Google Books service, as well as to describe privacy practices specific to the Google Books service. We've also described some privacy practices for services created by our proposed settlement agreement, which is currently awaiting court approval.

As we noted in our letter to the FTC, because the settlement agreement has not yet been approved by the court, and the services authorized by the agreement have not been built or even designed yet, it's not possible to draft a final privacy policy that covers details of the settlement's anticipated services and features. Our privacy policies are usually based on detailed review of a final product -- and on weeks, months or years of careful work engineering the product itself to protect privacy. In this case, we've planned in advance for the protections that will later be built, and we've described some of those in the Google Books policy. We have also covered several privacy issues in our letter to the FTC on Google Books. You can read more of that exchange on the FTC's website here.

We take our privacy commitments to our users very seriously. It's important to note that like all of our privacy policies, this one is legally enforceable by the FTC, which has helped us clarify our practices and policies through comments and questions.

Enabling small business success online

Ten years ago, Google started out as a small business in Palo Alto with just 8 employees. Today, Google products and services help connect millions of people around the world with information everyday - and that includes businesses and customers! Whether you're a local plumber trying to reach a new customer down the block or a niche antique dealer connecting with a collector overseas, we serve as a platform to help find new customers that you might otherwise not reach. In 2008 alone, Google distributed $5.28 billion to our partners, including thousands of small businesses who are staying afloat in this difficult economic climate.

Much of our success hinges on the success of our small business customers and partners, and we're committed to helping entrepreneurs grow online. That's why we'll be participating in the NFIB's (National Federation of Independent Business) Virtual Summit on September 15.

There's no cost to attend, and you won't even need to leave your desk to meet and network with fellow small business owners and industry experts. Just click this link and enter code gbb366 to register.

Find out more about how Google can help your small business thrive on the web - affordably and efficiently. We hope to see you at the Summit!