4.7 trillion reasons for well-designed copyright

$4.7 trillion. According to a new study by the Computer & Communications Industry Association, that’s the amount of revenue generated in the U.S. by the “fair use economy” -- industries that rely on fair use and other limitations on copyright. They account for 1/6th of U.S. GDP, one out of eight jobs, and $281 billion in exports.

The Internet and information technologies are key drivers of the economy, but few realize that copyright law’s delicate balance is essential to this growth. Copyright law not only provides artists with certain protections, but also includes important limitations that promote innovation and legitimate re-use of information.

For example, without limits on copyright, search engines would not exist. Indexing the Web would be illegal, because that requires creating a copy of websites first.

The importance of well-designed copyright goes much further, though. iPods, Tivos, and any other digital media device that is capable of making copies depends on balanced copyright. The Internet’s very function is to make and disseminate copies of information -- it couldn’t exist without limitations in copyright. Congress laid the foundations for the Web in 1998, when it enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and created a set of “safe harbors” that protected online service providers who respond properly to copyright holders’ notifications of alleged infringement. Virtually all Web platforms -- from the smallest website hosting platforms and community bulletin boards to YouTube, Facebook, eBay, Craigslist, and everything in between -- depend on this legal framework.

CCIA’s study attempts to quantify the economic impact of these and other industries by using a methodology put out by the World Intellectual Property Organization. This methodology has also been used in several studies that analyze the economic contributions of content creators.

As more people and more devices access the Internet at even faster speeds, one can expect the “fair use economy” to be increasingly important. In fact, the “fair use economy” has been growing at a faster pace than the overall economy: from 2002 to 2007, it accounted for 23 percent of U.S. real economic growth. Maintaining balance in copyright law will be crucial to this continuing innovation and growth.

What this is really about: keeping the Internet open for consumers

There’s been a lot of debate about the best way to implement the National Broadband Plan and open Internet rules after the recent Comcast decision. Lots of smart people have recommended reasonable solutions to the FCC’s jurisdictional headache.

We’ve said all along that what’s important to us is promoting an open Internet, and providing access for Americans to the best broadband possible. In comments filed today with the FCC, we say that “we continue to believe that the FCC has ample legal authority to adopt broadband openness rules” and that we support whatever jurisdictional fix is “most sustainable legally.”

To us this has never been about regulatory rigidity but about protecting consumers and keeping the Internet open for innovators. So while we’re not wed to any particular legal theory to justify the FCC’s jurisdiction, we do believe some minimal oversight over broadband networks is essential.

Content ID and Fair Use

(Cross-posted from the Official YouTube Blog)

Over the past decade, the evolution of the Internet has altered the landscape for both traditional media companies and the doctrine of fair use, and the media industry has tried to keep up. The new ways that consumers create and distribute content are not a niche phenomenon. Hundreds of millions of people around the world now use the Web to connect and interact with content online, and a huge percentage of them go even further: they express themselves via parodies, celebrate their favorite videos with mashups, and use music in educational presentations. The people that upload these videos are typically the biggest fans, and are exactly the kinds of consumers rights holders should be embracing.

We listen closely to our partners and we're constantly improving our content identification and management tools ("Content ID") to make sure they have choices in dealing with these different uses of their content on YouTube. Over 1,000 content owners use Content ID, and we've built it in a way that lets them account for fair uses of their content: they can easily create policies depending on the proportion of a claimed video that contains their work, or the absolute length of the clip used. For example, a record label might decide to block videos that contain over one minute of a given song, but leave up videos that contain less than one minute.

Since Content ID can't identify context (like "educational use" or "parody"), we give partners the tools to use length and match proportion as a proxy. Of course, it's not a perfect system. That's why two videos -- one of a baby dancing to one minute of a pop song, and another using the exact same audio clip in a videotaped University lecture about copyright law -- might be treated identically by Content ID and taken down by the rights holder, even though one may be fair use and the other may not. Rights holders are the only ones in a position to know what is and is not an authorized use of their content, and we require them to enforce their policies in a manner that complies with the law.

Still, to make sure that users also have choices when dealing with the content they upload to YouTube, Content ID makes it easy for users to dispute inappropriate claims.
  • When you receive a notice in your account via Content ID, we tell you who claimed the content, and direct you to a form that lets you dispute the claim if you so choose.
  • If you believe your video is fair use, check the box that reads "This video uses copyrighted material in a manner that does not require approval of the copyright holder." If you're not sure if your video qualifies, you can learn more about fair use here.
  • Once you've filed your dispute, your video immediately goes back up on YouTube.
  • From this point, the claimant then makes a decision about whether to file a formal DMCA notification, and remove the content from the site according to the process set forth in the DMCA.
Content ID has helped create an entirely new economic model for rights holders. We are committed to supporting new forms of original creativity, protecting fair use, and providing a seamless user experience -- all while we help rights owners easily manage their content on YouTube.

UPDATE (4:45 PM ET): To clear up confusion, this is not a new feature. The dispute process has been in place since Content ID first launched in October 2007. We've changed some text to make that clear.

Video of Power in Numbers: Unleashing Innovation in Home Energy

Posted by David Green, Global Communications and Public Affairs

Access to information about our home energy use can teach us all sorts of things about the appliances in our homes and how they interact with the electric grid. At an event we recently co-hosted with The Climate Group, the President’s most senior White House energy official, Carol Browner, told a story about how one of her colleagues did a home energy audit. During the audit, he discovered that one of his two stereos was using more than twice as much energy as the other. Both played music well, but it cost him twice as much to listen on one of the stereos.

We know that when people have access to their energy data, they tend to make simple behavioral decisions that save money and energy. For some that means smarter usage, like using the more efficient stereo. This is one of the small changes that can make a meaningful impact that was discussed at the event. If you’re interested in more about the technology and policies needed to drive innovation in home energy use, video from the half day program is available here.

Part #1: Tools & technologies that will empower people with information and control

Part #2: ET meets IT: Getting to Scale, A Fireside Chat with Charlene Begley, President and CEO, GE Home & Business Solutions

Part #3: Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

Part #4: How do we get there?

Greater transparency around government requests

Posted by David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer
(cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that "everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Written in 1948, the principle applies aptly to today's Internet -- one of the most important means of free expression in the world. Yet government censorship of the web is growing rapidly: from the outright blocking and filtering of sites, to court orders limiting access to information and legislation forcing companies to self-censor content.

So it's no surprise that Google, like other technology and telecommunications companies, regularly receives demands from government agencies to remove content from our services. Of course many of these requests are entirely legitimate, such as requests for the removal of child pornography. We also regularly receive requests from law enforcement agencies to hand over private user data. Again, the vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations. However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship.

We are today launching a new Government Requests tool to give people information about the requests for user data or content removal we receive from government agencies around the world. For this launch, we are using data from July-December, 2009, and we plan to update the data in 6-month increments. Read this post to learn more about our principles surrounding free expression and controversial content on the web.

We already try to be as transparent as legally possible with respect to requests. Whenever we can, we notify users about requests that may affect them personally. If we remove content in search results, we display a message to users. The numbers we are sharing today take this transparency a step further and reflect the total number of requests we have received broken down by jurisdiction. We are also sharing the number of these content removal requests that we do not comply with, and while we cannot yet provide more detail about our compliance with user data requests in a useful way, we intend to do so in the future.

As part of our commitment to the Global Network Initiative, we have already agreed to principles and practices that govern privacy and free expression. In the spirit of these principles, we hope this tool will shine some light on the scale and scope of government requests for censorship and data around the globe. We also hope that this is just the first step toward increased transparency about these actions across the technology and communications industries.

Google Files Privacy Comments

In March, the Federal Trade Commission concluded its “Exploring Privacy” roundtable series. The series brought together leaders from government, advocacy, academia, and industry to discuss ways to best protect consumer privacy. Representatives from Google participated in all the different sessions and sat on two of the panels.

Following the last roundtable, the FTC asked participants to submit public comments as part of the ongoing conversation. Last week, we did. And we thought you might be interested in seeing what we had to say.

In our comments, we both explain Google’s ongoing commitment to privacy and security and also offer some policy recommendations for the FTC moving forward.

Specifically, our filing highlights Google’s support for:

  • Strong industry commitments to ensure transparency, user control, and security in Internet services for consumers. Self-regulatory standards, such as the recent work done in online behavioral advertising, have encouraged companies to innovate in the area of privacy and have enhanced user choices in the environment as a whole.
  • Comprehensive privacy standards and strengthened protections from government intrusion. Google has long supported comprehensive federal privacy legislation to establish baseline privacy protections for consumers. In addition, Google recently announced its support for the reform of federal law governing government access to online records as part of the Digital Due Process coalition.
  • FTC leadership in the shaping of global privacy standards. The FTC, in conjunction with the Commerce Department and other stakeholders, has a unique opportunity to develop a workable set of global privacy standards that are comprehensive, flexible, and effective. The current patchwork of rules and enforcement across multiple jurisdictions does not provide adequate protection for consumers or sufficient certainty for companies offering services on the global Internet.

In addition, the comments draw attention to the strong connection between privacy and free expression, which is a critical issue for us.

Fair warning, it can be a bit of a dense document, particularly for the privacy layperson. But if you’ve ever wanted to know more about privacy at Google, then it’s definitely worth a read.

Controversial content and free expression on the web: a refresher

Posted by Rachel Whetstone, Vice President, Global Communications and Public Affairs

(cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Two and a half years ago, we outlined our approach to removing content from Google products and services. Our process hasn’t changed since then, but our recent decision to stop censoring search on Google.cn has raised new questions about when we remove content, and how we respond to censorship demands by governments. So we figured it was time for a refresher.

Censorship of the web is a growing problem. According to the Open Net Initiative, the number of governments that censor has grown from about four in 2002 to over 40 today. In fact, some governments are now blocking content before it even reaches their citizens. Even benign intentions can result in the specter of real censorship. Repressive regimes are building firewalls and cracking down on dissent online -- dealing harshly with anyone who breaks the rules.

Increased government censorship of the web is undoubtedly driven by the fact that record numbers of people now have access to the Internet, and that they are creating more content than ever before. For example, over 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day. This creates big challenges for governments used to controlling traditional print and broadcast media. While everyone agrees that there are limits to what information should be available online -- for example child pornography -- many of the new government restrictions we are seeing today not only strike at the heart of an open Internet but also violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

We see these attempts at control in many ways. China is the most polarizing example, but it is not the only one. Google products -- from search and Blogger to YouTube and Google Docs -- have been blocked in 25 of the 100 countries where we offer our services. In addition, we regularly receive government requests to restrict or remove content from our properties. When we receive those requests, we examine them to closely to ensure they comply with the law, and if we think they’re overly broad, we attempt to narrow them down. Where possible, we are also transparent with our users about what content we have been required to block or remove so they understand that they may not be getting the full picture.

On our own services, we deal with controversial content in different ways, depending on the product. As a starting point, we distinguish between search (where we are simply linking to other web pages), the content we host, and ads. In a nutshell, here is our approach:

Search is the least restrictive of all our services, because search results are a reflection of the content of the web. We do not remove content from search globally except in narrow circumstances, like child pornography, certain links to copyrighted material, spam, malware, and results that contain sensitive personal information like credit card numbers. Specifically, we don’t want to engage in political censorship. This is especially true in countries like China and Vietnam that do not have democratic processes through which citizens can challenge censorship mandates. We carefully evaluate whether or not to establish a physical presence in countries where political censorship is likely to happen.

Some democratically-elected governments in Europe and elsewhere do have national laws that prohibit certain types of content. Our policy is to comply with the laws of these democratic governments -- for example, those that make pro-Nazi material illegal in Germany and France -- and remove search results from only our local search engine (for example, www.google.de in Germany). We also comply with youth protection laws in countries like Germany by removing links to certain material that is deemed inappropriate for children or by enabling Safe Search by default, as we do in Korea. Whenever we do remove content, we display a message for our users that X number of results have been removed to comply with local law and we also report those removals to chillingeffects.org, a project run by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, which tracks online restrictions on speech.

Platforms that host content like Blogger, YouTube, and Picasa Web Albums have content policies that outline what is, and is not, permissible on those sites. A good example of content we do not allow is hate speech. Our enforcement of these policies results in the removal of more content from our hosted content platforms than we remove from Google Search. Blogger, as a pure platform for expression, is among the most open of our services, allowing for example legal pornography, as long as it complies with the Blogger Content Policy. YouTube, as a community intended to permit sharing, comments, and other user-to-user interactions, has its Community Guidelines that define its own rules of the road. For example, pornography is absolutely not allowed on YouTube.

We try to make it as easy as possible for users to flag content that violates our policies. Here’s a video explaining how flagging works on YouTube. We review flagged content across all our products 24 hours a day, seven days a week to remove offending content from our sites. And if there are local laws where we do business that prohibit content that would otherwise be allowed, we restrict access to that content only in the country that prohibits it. For example, in Turkey, videos that insult the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Ataturk, are illegal. Two years ago, we were notified of such content on YouTube and blocked those videos in Turkey that violated local law. A Turkish court subsequently demanded that we block them globally, which we refused to do, arguing that Turkish law cannot apply outside Turkey. As a result YouTube has been blocked there.

Finally, our ads products have the most restrictive policies, because they are commercial products intended to generate revenue.

These policies are always evolving. Decisions to allow, restrict or remove content from our services and products often require difficult judgment calls. We have spirited debates about the right course of action, whether it’s about our own content policies or the extent to which we resist a government request. In the end, we rely on the principles that sit at the heart of everything we do.

We’ve said them before, but in these particularly challenging times, they bear repeating: We have a bias in favor of people's right to free expression. We are driven by a belief that more information means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual.

Opt-ins, opt-outs, and everything in between

Earlier this week, Google’s Senior Policy Counsel Nicklas Lundblad and Policy Manager Betsy Masiello published a paper called “Opt-in dystopias” in SCRIPTed, a Journal of Law, Technology & Society.

In their paper, Nicklas and Betsy explore how forcing opt-ins for online data collection could have unintended consequences that are not beneficial for user privacy. Partially-informed opt-ins that ask for excessive data, for example, could actually be more harmful for users’ privacy than better-designed, more intuitive and granular opt outs.

Nicklas and Betsy argue that focusing on the opt-in versus opt-out debate as a black-and-white matter creates false choices for users. Instead, they make the case that it’s better to have a structure in which online data collection is an ongoing negotiation between users and service providers. Although they don’t focus on advertising, their paper is timely given recent industry discussions about data collection in the online advertising world. To read more, you can download the entire paper here.

Response to China Earthquake

(cross-posted from the Official Google.org blog)

Yesterday, when a powerful earthquake struck the Qinghai province in Western China, Googlers within China and internationally mobilized to see how we could help with disaster response.

We are working on several tools to help people on the ground find out more information about the earthquake, connect with loved ones, as well as help with recovery efforts.

For those concerned about loved ones in Qinghai, the China Person Finder tool can be used to submit or search for information about individuals who may have been affected. The tool is available in Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and English. We encourage organizations and media sites to embed the gadget on their sites and help spread the word.

In addition, users can access earthquake information on Google News and Google Maps from a link on our homepages on google.com.hk, and google.com.tw. The site also includes links to real-time search information, which includes people’s posts to Twitter and other sources.

We will keep posting updates to the Google China blog as more information and tools become available. Please visit this page for updated resources.

Privacy protections are good for our users and business

Posted by Will DeVries, Privacy Policy Counsel

Alma Whitten, Google's Privacy Engineering Lead, wrote this commentary for Forbes, where she discusses our company's commitment to user choice and transparency.

In the piece she describes how privacy is something we think about everyday because it’s good for our users and critical for our business. If you find her piece interesting, you might also want to look at this presentation. It discusses our guiding privacy principles, explains what search logs look like, and discusses how we use data to improve our products and services.

Celebrating copyright

Posted by Nicklas Lundblad, Senior Policy Counsel

On the 10th of April 1710 -- 300 years ago this week -- the Statute of Anne was enacted in England. It is arguably the first modern copyright law, and a key foundation for the United States' earliest copyright statutes. Centuries later, copyright remains a critical institution that contributes significantly to our society and culture, and looking back at its origins can help us understand how it became what it is today.

Prior to the Statute, the British Crown controlled what books could be published. It gave a group of printers called the Stationers Company a monopoly over book selling and printing, and the government used its control of this group as a tool for censorship.

The Statute of Anne changed this system. For the first time, it granted authors rights to their works, and made it so anyone was eligible for a copyright. In this way, early copyright was anti-authoritarian and directly aimed at promoting free expression by shifting power to writers and away from printers and the state.

It also was aimed at promoting competition and the emergence of new creators and distributors. Rather than perpetual rights, copyrights would only exist for limited terms. This was intended to constrain a monopoly like the Stationers Company from existing in the future. Because any bookseller would be able to reprint valuable works after a certain period, it would be easier for others to enter the market and make these works available to the public.

Furthermore, the Act frames itself as “an encouragement for the act of learning" -- in other words, its goal is to provide the public with access to knowledge, and copyright is meant to be a means to that end. The idea was that providing incentives to create and share knowledge - costly and cumbersome at the time - should match the effort it takes to write a “useful work.”

Since encouraging learning was the purpose, the Act carefully balanced the interests and incentives of writers with the interest of learning. The limited term of protection was part of this balance. Another example of the commitment to knowledge sharing was the opportunity the Act offered for individuals to complain if prices were set at unreasonable rates. The Act also included a requirement that nine copies of a work be provided to the Royal Library.

Of course, much has changed in the centuries since the Statute was enacted. That said, it remains an important contribution to Western legal thought. We could do much worse than to study and learn from its intentions, as we try to understand copyright in the information society and how it needs to be shaped today to benefit users and creators in the best way possible.

If you're interested in reading more about the roots of copyright and how they apply today, see this piece in The Economist.

Eric Schmidt discusses innovation with news editors

Posted by Chris Gaither, Senior Manager, Global Communications & Public Affairs

This week, hundreds of newsroom leaders from across the country are gathered in Washington DC for the American Society of News Editors’ annual conference. The theme of this year’s event is “ideas,” and Eric Schmidt shared many of his as the opening speaker. He spoke about some of the big trends that are shaping the Internet, such as the rise of mobile and cloud computing, and some lessons he has learned about how to navigate the Web’s constant pace of change.

He also talked about the importance of journalism to functioning democracies and encouraged the group to work together -- as well as with technology partners like Google -- to find new ways to reach and engage audiences, tell important stories and build thriving businesses online.

You can watch Eric’s speech, which we’ve posted on YouTube, below. And if you’re interested in reading or contributing to the discussion about the future of news, check out the unofficial conference blog and #asne10 on Twitter.

Setting efficiency goals for data centers

For the past decade, we have been working to make our data centers as efficient as possible; we now use less than half the energy to run Google's data centers than the industry average. In the open letter below, I am very happy to welcome a group of industry leaders who collectively represent most of the world's most advanced data center operators. -Urs Hoelzle

Recently, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) added data centers to their building efficiency standard, ASHRAE Standard 90.1. This standard defines the energy efficiency for most types of buildings in America and is often incorporated into building codes across the country.

Data centers are among the fastest-growing users of energy, according to an EPA report, and most data centers have historically been designed and operated without regard to energy efficiency (for details, see this 2009 EPA Energy Star survey). Thus, setting efficiency standards for data centers is important, and we welcome this step.

We believe that for data centers, where the energy used to perform a function (e.g., cooling) is easily measured, efficiency standards should be performance-based, not prescriptive. In other words, the standard should set the required efficiency without prescribing the specific technologies to accomplish that goal. That’s how many efficiency standards work; for example, fuel efficiency standards for cars specify how much gas a car can consume per mile of driving but not what engine to use. A performance-based standard for data centers can achieve the desired energy saving results while still enabling our industry to innovate and find new ways to improve our products.

Unfortunately, the proposed ASHRAE standard is far too prescriptive. Instead of setting a required level of efficiency for the cooling system as a whole, the standard dictates which types of cooling methods must be used. For example, the standard requires data centers to use economizers — systems that use ambient air for cooling. In many cases, economizers are a great way to cool a data center (in fact, many of our companies' data centers use them extensively), but simply requiring their use doesn’t guarantee an efficient system, and they may not be the best choice. Future cooling methods may achieve the same or better results without the use of economizers altogether. An efficiency standard should not prohibit such innovation.

Thus, we believe that an overall data center-level cooling system efficiency standard needs to replace the proposed prescriptive approach to allow data center innovation to continue. The standard should set an aggressive target for the maximum amount of energy used by a data center for overhead functions like cooling. In fact, a similar approach is already being adopted in the industry. In a recent statement, data center industry leaders agreed that Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is the preferred metric for measuring data center efficiency. And the EPA Energy Star program already uses this method for data centers. As leaders in the data center industry, we are committed to aggressive energy efficiency improvements, but we need standards that let us continue to innovate while meeting (and, hopefully, exceeding) a baseline efficiency requirement set by the ASHRAE standard.

Chris Crosby, Senior Vice President, Digital Realty Trust
Hossein Fateh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dupont Fabros Technology
James Hamilton, Vice President and Distinguished Engineer, Amazon
Urs Hoelzle, Senior Vice President, Operations and Google Fellow, Google
Mike Manos, Vice President, Service Operations, Nokia
Kevin Timmons, General Manager, Datacenter Services, Microsoft
Joseph F. Dzaluk, VP, Global Infrastructure and Resource Management, ITDelivery, IBM

Update (4/20/10): Added Joseph F. Dzaluk (IBM) as a signer.

The National Broadband Plan and Small Business

Yesterday, I spoke at a panel with other tech companies about how small businesses can leverage the Internet to grow their business. The event was put on by the SBA and FCC through a program called SCORE, which, among other things, is seeking to accelerate small business growth through access to broadband. SCORE will create a comprehensive package of applications, training, and support to small businesses in the country's neediest areas.

One of the small business owners I met at the event, Emily McHugh of Casauri, spoke about how the Internet helped start and grow her business. Emily and her sister started their business in 1999 because they thought there weren’t enough good bags out there for tech gear. And they were right! With Emily’s business degree and her sister Helen’s design degree, Casauri took off. They’ve helped scale their business by leveraging the Internet. All of Casauri’s accounting, sales, and data storage is done online. This cloud computing approach makes their business more efficient and saves them money. But Emily cautioned, "the Internet doesn't mean anything to small business without access...dial-up doesn't count... it's all about speed!"

Emily and her sister are not alone. Lots of small businesses are tapping the Internet to grow their businesses and we believe SCORE will help boost digital literacy, online commerce capabilities, and usage of low-cost, cloud-based tools for small businesses across the country.

If you’re interested in learning about how to start a business or make it more efficient using low-cost or free online tools, you may want to take a look at our series of blog posts on entrepreneurship, which started yesterday on the Official Google Blog.

And, now, I’m going back to browsing all of Casuri’s great laptop bags.

Captioning advocate Marlee Matlin visits Google

Last week, actress Marlee Matlin visited the Googleplex to preview her new YouTube reality show, "My Deaf Family," and to talk about some of the challenges facing people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In addition to being an author and Academy Award winning actress, Marlee Matlin also serves as a national spokeswoman for closed captioning access on behalf of the National Association for the Deaf and other organizations.

Captioning is an issue that's very important to us, and we're committed to finding ways to make the 24 hours of video uploaded to YouTube each minute more accessible to those who face hearing and language barriers. Last November, we held an event at Google DC with advocates from the accessibility community to announce new features that make it easy to create captions from transcripts on YouTube videos, and we previewed a new feature that uses speech-to-text technology to generate captions automatically. This March, we expanded automatic captioning for all users, and these can even be automatically translated.

Software engineer Ken Harrenstien shares the full story of Matlin's visit on our YouTube blog, and you can see video from the talk below. And don't miss Matlin's new reality show on YouTube.

Brookings: Cloud computing can save govt agencies 25-50% in costs

If someone told you that they had an idea that could help government agencies function more productively while also cutting IT costs up to 50%, wouldn’t you take them up on the offer? That’s the kind of promise cloud computing holds, and that was the topic of a forum I just attended at Brookings Institution this morning.

I had two take-aways:

First, Darrell West of Brookings released a new paper concluding that the government agencies who have adopted cloud computing solutions have generally seen “between 25 and 50 percent savings in moving to the cloud.” For the federal government, West concludes that “this translates into billions in cost savings, depending on the scope of the transition.”

Second, federal CIO Vivek Kundra (pictured right) spoke about his new plan to streamline federal government agencies’ certification of cloud computing services, by creating a “centralized certification” board designed to speed up federal cloud adoption.

Conrad Cross from the City of Orlando was on the panel this morning as well, talking about how his city reduced IT costs by 60% by using Google Apps. And the City of Los Angeles -- which adopted Google Apps a few months ago and expects to save millions of dollars a year -- makes a cameo in Brookings’ report.

We’re big believers that governments ought to make sure cloud computing is treated on a level playing field in procurement decisions, along with desktop and server-based computing. Brookings made several recommendations in their new paper on how policymakers can do that, and we hope Congress will take up their challenge.

Google Buzz Tips for Teens

We created Google Buzz to make it easy for everyone* - including teenagers - to start conversations about the things you find interesting. A lot of people have been using Buzz since it launched, but some folks may still have questions about how sharing and other parts of Buzz work.

We made this video to help you and your teens have a conversation about Buzz. It’s part of our ongoing series of videos to educate teens about how they can make smart choices online.

You can find more teen safety tips by visiting our Safety YouTube Channel. And for more tips on how to use Google Buzz, check out the Google Buzz YouTube Channel.

*Buzz is for everyone, except those under 13. Like with Gmail, you must be at least 13 years of age to use Google Buzz.

Confirm your Buzz settings

(cross-posted from the Official Gmail Blog)

Shortly after launching Google Buzz, we quickly realized we didn't get everything right and moved as fast as possible to improve the Buzz experience. We made a number of changes to the getting started experience based on your feedback, the most significant of which was replacing auto-following with suggestions for people to follow.

Rather than automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with most, Google Buzz now suggests people for you to follow instead. This way, Buzz is still simple to set up (no one wants to peck out an entire social network from scratch) but you aren't set up to follow anyone until you choose to do so.

But many of you started using Google Buzz before we made these changes, and we want to help you ensure that Buzz is set up the way you want. Offering everyone who uses our products transparency and control is very important to us, so if you started using Google Buzz before we changed the start-up experience, you'll see the following confirmation page the next time you click into the Buzz tab:

This page highlights your current Buzz settings and makes it easy to change anything you want. You can view and edit the people you're following and the people following you, elect whether you want those lists appearing on your public Google profile, and modify any of the sites you have connected to Google Buzz, like Picasa, Google Reader, or Twitter. If everything looks good, you can confirm your Buzz set-up with a single click. And remember, you can always change who you're following by clicking "Following XX people" from the Buzz tab or modify your preferences from the Buzz section of Gmail Settings.

To keep up to date with all of the improvements we're making to Google Buzz and provide your feedback, follow our team's Google Buzz account. For tips and tricks on using Google Buzz, check out the videos on our new YouTube channel: youtube.com/googlebuzz.

Powering consumers with information about their energy use

We all receive an electricity bill once a month that is hard to decipher besides the total amount due. What if we instead had access to more useful and actionable information about our energy consumption? What if consumers could use this information to automatically adjust appliances, lights, and other equipment to save money and cut energy use?

That’s what a group of over 45 major companies and organizations said today in a letter to President Obama. Signers include companies like AT&T, General Electric and Intel and NGOs like The Climate Group, NRDC and the Alliance to Save Energy. The group also includes start ups, smart grid companies, venture firms and trade organizations.

This diverse group shares a common vision: giving consumers the ability to monitor and manage their power use will save them energy and money. It will also unleash innovation in homes and businesses as new energy saving technologies and apps are developed.

This group will continue to look for ways to offer ideas to policymakers on how to empower consumers with energy saving tools and information. Join the discussion tomorrow at an event in Washington, DC co-hosted by Google and The Climate Group. If you can make it, RSVP here.

Join us this coming Tuesday to discuss innovation and home energy use

How many times have you been headed out of town for a long weekend when you got that sick feeling that you didn’t turn off the lights? Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn down your AC from the beltway? Or learn how much it costs to run that extra load in the washer when you get home?

Turns out this isn’t Jetsons’ talk. It’s right around the corner.

Join the President’s most senior White House energy official, Carol Browner, as well as corporate leaders and advocates this coming Tuesday to discuss how smart grid technology can get us there. The event co-hosted by Google DC and The Climate Group, will explore technologies and policies aimed at giving consumers the ability to better monitor and manage their energy use.

The potential for energy and cost savings are enormous - starting with data that says we can count on savings of 5-15% per household with little effort. What we're interested in, is putting our minds together to discuss how to help consumers get energy and cost savings, speed this future to market and how to encourage innovation.

Power in Numbers: Unleashing Innovation in Home Energy Use
Tuesday, April 6
1:00pm - 5:00pm - Event & Reception
Google Washington Office
1101 New York Ave. NW, Second Floor
Join us! RSVP here.