A Better Dashboard: Helping Detect Suspicious Log ins

Posted by Yariv Adan, Product Manager

A few months back we launched a feature in Gmail that notifies you when our servers automatically detect suspicious log in activity on your account. Since this has been effective in helping people identify improper access, we decided to extend it to all our Google Account users, not just Gmail. Starting this week, If we detect any suspicious log in on any of your Google Account products, we’ll display a notification on your Google Dashboard.

How does this work? Using the IP address you provide to us, our automated system can determine your broad geographic location. If you log in using a remote IP address, our system will flag it for you. So if you normally log into your account from your home in California and then a few hours later your account is logged in from France, you’ll get a notice like the one above at the top of your Dashboard page - alerting you to the change and providing links for more details.

When you get this notice and if you think your account has been compromised, you can then change your password directly from the ‘more details’ pop-up window.

Or, if you know it was legitimate access (e.g. you were traveling or your spouse who uses the same account was traveling), you can easily click "Dismiss" and remove the message. These notifications will hopefully help you identify suspicious activity but should not be considered a replacement for following best practices to keep your data secure.

In other Dashboard news, we recently added a link at the bottom of the page for you to ‘report an issue’ making it easier for you to tell us about a problem or to just share your thoughts. We want to work with you to keep making the Dashboard better, so let us know how we’re doing or ways we can improve your experience. Just note we may not be able to reply to every single report; but rest assured, we will read the feedback so we can keep making the Dashboard better.

So send us your thoughts. Take care to protect your information. And always keep an eye out for future improvements and upgrades to your Dashboard.

An update on China

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Ever since we launched Google.cn, our search engine for mainland Chinese users, we have done our best to increase access to information while abiding by Chinese law. This has not always been an easy balance to strike, especially since our January announcement that we were no longer willing to censor results on Google.cn.

We currently automatically redirect everyone using Google.cn to Google.com.hk, our Hong Kong search engine. This redirect, which offers unfiltered search in simplified Chinese, has been working well for our users and for Google. However, it’s clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable—and that if we continue redirecting users our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed (it’s up for renewal on June 30). Without an ICP license, we can’t operate a commercial website like Google.cn—so Google would effectively go dark in China.

That’s a prospect dreaded by many of our Chinese users, who have been vocal about their desire to keep Google.cn alive. We have therefore been looking at possible alternatives, and instead of automatically redirecting all our users, we have started taking a small percentage of them to a landing page on Google.cn that links to Google.com.hk—where users can conduct web search or continue to use Google.cn services like music and text translate, which we can provide locally without filtering. This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page.

Over the next few days we’ll end the redirect entirely, taking all our Chinese users to our new landing page—and today we re-submitted our ICP license renewal application based on this approach.

As a company we aspire to make information available to users everywhere, including China. It’s why we have worked so hard to keep Google.cn alive, as well as to continue our research and development work in China. This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self censor and, we believe, with local law. We are therefore hopeful that our license will be renewed on this basis so we can continue to offer our Chinese users services via Google.cn.

YouTube wins case against Viacom

(Cross-posted from The Official YouTube Blog)

Today, the court granted our motion for summary judgment in Viacom’s lawsuit with YouTube. This means that the court has decided that YouTube is protected by the safe harbor of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) against claims of copyright infringement. The decision follows established judicial consensus that online services like YouTube are protected when they work cooperatively with copyright holders to help them manage their rights online.

This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other. We’re excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world.

UPDATE: This decision also applies to other parties to the lawsuit, including the Premier League.

Universal mediums and languages

A year ago today, Neda Soltan was shot on the streets of Tehran amid protests over the disputed results of the Iranian elections. Officials locked foreign journalists out of the country and stalled all modes of communication, but an individual caught the final moments before her death on video. That video was posted to YouTube, and captured the hearts and minds of millions around the world.

Little is known about Neda’s life, but as I read more about her, I noticed one thing in particular: Neda was a singer in a country where women are not allowed to sing in public.

Music, Neda’s passion in life, is a universal language that has the ability to inspire feelings of patriotism or dissent, fuel political and social movements, educate and influence entire populations, and serve as a connecting force for people around the world. The open Internet, which memorialized Neda’s life, has the same inherent capabilities. It’s no coincidence that repressive regimes that silence minority voices do so by restricting the platforms that can elevate them most; the top eight countries that violate the freedom of musical expression also censor heavily online.

As with all mediums, languages, and innovations that transcend borders, the Internet and music will and can be used for both good and bad purposes. And neither will ever be a silver bullet for the world’s problems. But both are able to carry and amplify messages that would otherwise be lost, empowering individuals to speak, and serving as incomparable platforms for engagement, expression.

Easier sharing in Google Docs

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Today, I rarely work on documents in isolation. I share docs with teammates for feedback, help them with their design docs and presentations and regularly make my files available to all of Google.

When using applications to collaborate with others, it's important to have control over your data and how it's shared. With Google Docs, you've always been able to share documents with individuals and groups. Today, we're making it even easier with a new simplified interface that make it even easier to share and see who has access to your files. For an overview of what's new, take a look at this video:

Documents, spreadsheets and presentations can now be identified as “Private,” “Anyone with a link” or “Public on the web.” As before, all docs start out as private by default.

These new visibility options appear as a link next to the title of every doc. Clicking this link or the “Share” button takes you straight to the new interface where you can see who has access, manage sharing access and invite others to share the doc.

These improvements have started to roll out and should be available to everyone in the next week. If you’re interested in learning more about these changes and other new sharing features, check out our post on the Google Docs blog. If you’re using Google Apps for your school or business, our post on the Enterprise Blog covers how you can share docs more easily within your organization.

The FCC’s third way approach

This morning the FCC asked for public comment on its proposed “third way," a light-touch approach that would restore legal clarity after the recent Comcast decision. As we have said before, broadband infrastructure is too important to be left outside of any oversight. Google, along with a dozen other tech companies, have written in support of Chairman Genachowski’s proposed “third way” as a straightforward way to protect consumers and the open Internet.

Using AdMongo to teach kids about the online marketplace

It’s Internet Safety Month, and we’ve been on the lookout for creative ways to help users learn about best practices and responsible use of the Web. In addition to some tips from the YouTube team, we came across an interactive game from the Federal Trade Commission called Admongo where kids (and adults!) can learn about ads and commercial messages.

Everyone knows that young people spend a lot of time on the Internet, but the numbers are still eye-opening: Over 93% of teens go online, and 63% access the Internet to email, connect with friends, upload and view content, play video games, and use many other online applications. Recent studies show 73% of teens actively use social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and blogs -- a rate much higher than those of their parents’ generation. Additionally, teens continue to create and share more online content than adults.

Interpreting marketing messages can be tough -- especially for young people or those new to online media. It’s important that kids, teens, and adults alike all know how to decipher what the message of an ad is, whether or not it’s true, and how beneficial it might be. Admongo walks them through the sleuthing process in an online video game that helps them to make better buying and browsing decisions.

This initiative, and others like it from the FTC, are extremely valuable when it comes to empowering consumers (even young ones) to become more informed and aware of what’s out there on the Web. Check out their NetCetera guide for tips on how to talk with kids about protecting themselves when they go online.

Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference kicks off

Editor’s note: From time to time we invite guests to blog about initiatives of interest, and are pleased to have Jon Pincus join us here.

The Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference begins today, at a time when crucial decisions about freedom and privacy are being made across the world. CFP's being held at San Jose State University this year, the first time it's been back to the Bay Area since 2004. We’ve attracted a great mix of participants - consumer advocates, business interests, technologists, policy and legal analysts, and activists - to discuss a dizzying array of issues: smart grids, intelligent transportation systems, mobile technologies and resisting surveillance, cybersecurity, trust, healthcare privacy, robots and civil liberties, social network activism, academic research, and much more.

We're webcasting many of the sessions, including Today's opening session on Privacy and Free Speech: It's Good for Business. In addition to Googlers speaking on panels, Google General Counsel and former CFP chair Kent Walker will give a keynote on Human Rights and the Web Thursday morning.

Carrying on the CFP tradition of participative events, we're going to be developing a Social Network Users' Bill of Rights over the course of the conference, and wrapping things up Friday afternoon with a debate and vote.

Our website has a lot more information, including the program and broadcast schedule. The Twitter backchannels are #cfpconf and #BillOfRights.

Blazing the online safety trail

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

When I was in middle school, computer class was spent learning the basics of “keyboarding” and rushing to finish the lesson so I could get back to my journey on the Oregon Trail. My main goal was to survive the river crossings, maintain enough buffalo meat to sustain my family and arrive safely in California with my entire fake family still alive.

Today, many schools are teaching their first graders the basic computer skills I was learning at 13. Teens have always been the quickest adopters of new technology, as parents and teachers struggle to keep up and equip teens to make good decisions online.

When I visited Dunne Technology Academy in South Chicago earlier this week, most of the students were getting ready for their summer break, but we paused for a bit to talk about what they’re doing online. The majority of these tech-savvy teens had all encountered cyberbullying at some point, had seen pictures and information on profiles they thought were inappropriate, and had had someone try to trick them through a phishing scam.

We spent the day discussing ways to avoid being scammed, how to create an online profile that can be an asset rather than a liability, and actions you can take if you’re being bullied, harassed or see inappropriate content. Most students seemed to understand that their online identity and their “real world” self were one and the same, and that they have choices in managing their content and reputation online. We agreed that by applying the rules of good citizenship online, the Internet would be a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone.

So while teens have more difficult choices online today than to ford or to ferry the river in Oregon Trail, we can prepare them to make smart decisions online. Check out the educational materials from our Digital Literacy Tour in our Google For Educators site at www.google.com/educators/digitalliteracy.html.

Disturbing Concerns in Vietnam

Internet users in Hanoi will soon find that they can’t reach certain sites when browsing the Web at local Internet cafés. A regulation enacted in April requires that all retail Internet locations install a server-side application by 2011. The application will likely allow the Vietnamese government to block access to websites, as well as to track user activities.

The implementation of an application like this one would choke off access to information for many in Hanoi -- given how popular Internet cafés are among Internet users in Vietnam. If the regulation spreads beyond Hanoi, it will impose these vague and non-transparent restrictions on users all over the country.

Together with the security attacks we detected on Vietnamese human rights activists earlier this year (see our security blog post on "The chilling effects of malware") and intermittent blockages of Facebook and other social networks, this regulation is a troubling example of a government threatening free expression online and an open Internet.

Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group poised for launch

For some time now, we’ve been advocating for the formation of a group of technical experts to put forward their best thinking on how to manage broadband networks in ways that still preserve and promote an open Internet. We’ve worked closely with Verizon and others in the Internet sector to further develop the concept, and we’re excited by today’s announcement that the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group , or BITAG, has begun the process of formally launching.

To be clear, the BITAG is still very much a work in progress, and we welcome the involvement of other interested entities, especially those representing the Internet user community. Further, the purpose of the BITAG is not to replace the oversight and enforcement authority of the FCC or any other government body. Rather, we hope the BITAG can bring together some of the smartest technical minds in this space to provide some useful guidance to policymakers and Internet stakeholders alike.

Inform, engage and mobilize voters with YouTube and Google Campaign Toolkits

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

It’s no secret that any successful 21st century political campaign must have a robust online strategy to succeed. But elected officials and candidates need more than just a website and a YouTube channel to engage voters: from President Obama’s YouTube interview to Senator Scott Brown’s campaign team’s use of Google Docs to Congressman Scott Murphy’s “Google blast” ad strategy, we’re seeing politicians use more and more of our products and platforms to interact with voters, share information and keep their campaigns organized.

We want to do our part to make sure candidates and campaigns have the tools to stay close to voters, who now expect to hear and see much more from their elected officials than ever before. So today, we’re launching YouTube’s You Choose 2010 Campaign Toolkit and a new and improved Google Campaign Toolkit. Both help candidates make their organizations more effective and deliver their messages more directly. On YouTube, campaigns will have access to features like a Politician channel (which allows campaigns to brand their channel and upload longer videos), Google Moderator, our free analytics tool YouTube Insight, and information about running paid advertising campaigns—using formats like in-stream ads and Promoted Videos—to reach viewers with political ads, just like on TV. And our Google toolkit demonstrates how Google Apps can keep staff and volunteers connected, how search ads can grow your email list and provides other helpful tools.

We hope campaigns in both national and local contests will use these toolkits to engage and inform voters on important issues in 2010. As access to information online is increasingly important in elections, we’re pleased to continue developing useful tools for voters and candidates.

Free download: 10 terabytes of patents and trademarks

When we launched Google Patent Search in 2006, we wanted to make it easier for people to understand the world of inventions, whether they were browsing for curious patents or researching serious engineering. Recently, we’ve also worked on a number of public data search features, as well as experimental features like the Public Data Explorer.

There are many places to search for individual patents -- the US Patent and Trademark Office and Google Patent Search are two examples. But sometimes that’s not enough. If you’re trying to identify trends in innovation over time or analyze all the patents relevant to your invention, it helps to have all the patent data on hand. For example, the non-profit Cambia’s PatentLens creates topical analyses of patent information, and they can only do this with a comprehensive data set. Others have experimented with a variety of online mashups of the data, such as an interactive map showing the most innovative states.

The trouble is, that’s a lot of information -- terabytes of it -- and in the past the only way to deliver that information was on DVDs and other physical media. The USPTO will ship them to you, and over the last decade Cambia alone has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this data. But with high-bandwidth connections on the rise, both the USPTO and Google think it’s time to help people download the bulk data directly.

That’s why we’re proud to announce that the USPTO and Google are making this data available for free at http://www.google.com/googlebooks/uspto.html. This includes all granted patents and trademarks, and published applications -- with both full text and images. And in the future we will be making more data available including file histories and related data.

We look forward to continuing to work with the USPTO and other public organizations to expand access to public data. You can read the official press release from the USPTO here.

Making U.S. community health data accessible and useful

Today the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are hosting an event called The Community Health Data Forum to highlight the power of transparency in health care. I was pleased to offer one of several technology demonstrations highlighting how health data can help us make better health decisions.

HHS has published useful data about communities, hospitals and nursing homes and made it available for download. As a demonstration project, we combined some of this information using Google Fusion Tables, a database service in the cloud that makes it easy to explore, visualize and share structured data. Using Fusion Tables we created a customized map to display information from the database. For example, you can see a map of "heart friendly" and "people friendly" hospitals, based on statistics from HHS:

It's important to note that the science behind measuring the quality of hospitals and health care in general is still evolving, so we can't make definitive conclusions from this data. However, this kind of transparency will lead to discussion, questions, and analysis which we hope will improve choices and outcomes. We encourage you to explore the new data from HHS, including visualizations like the one above, using our published table.

Florida modernizes campaign laws to reflect new technology

The Florida laws governing political advertising were first written in 1951. Back then phones looked like this and the Internet hadn’t even been invented.

Last week Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed a bill into law that helps bring Florida election law into the Internet age. The bill includes a provision, authored by Representative Eric Eisnaugle (R-Orlando) and Senator Victor Crist (R-Tampa), that will make it possible for candidates to make full use of online advertising, social networking, and text messages in campaigns.

The use of those tools to reach potential voters has been in question ever since a complaint was filed last year against a St. Petersburg mayoral candidate who had placed advertisements on Google that did not contain the disclaimer required under the prior Florida law. The problem was that the disclaimers just didn’t fit on short Internet search ads.

The new law strikes a good balance, respecting both the medium and need for transparency. As long as the message is no longer than 200 characters and links to a website that clearly discloses who is running the ad or sending the message, the actual message does not need to contain a disclaimer. The new law also provides safe harbors on disclaimer requirements for candidates using text messaging, social networking sites, downloadable apps, blogs and message board postings.

It’s a good common sense approach to lawmaking and puts Florida ahead of the pack when it comes to modernizing laws that were written when a tweet was just a sound a bird made.