Safe Shopping with Google’s Privacy Tools

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to agonize over holiday gifts.But for me, holiday shopping has been transformed by the Internet. Like 106 million other Americans on Cyber Monday alone, I did much of my holiday shopping online. Less hunting for parking at the mall, more eggnog!

But my wife (Hi, Joyce!) shares my computer, so how can I find the perfect gift without ruining the surprise? And how can I keep my shopping and browsing information safe and secure? By using Google’s Privacy Tools, of course!

If I’m signed into my Google Account and have my Web History turned on, I get more personalized search results and can see my previous search terms. But I can also delete those gift-related searches in case my wife gets nosy. I can even pause my history so my search for ‘Hawaii vacation' isn’t ever recorded. (Joyce, if you’re reading this, that’s just an example.)

But that only helps hide my search terms; what if I want to cover the rest of my online tracks? To hide those shopping sites from curious eyes, I use Google Chrome’s Incognito mode, which keeps any websites I visit or downloads I make from being recorded in my browser’s history. Goodbye!

When my wife opens that perfect gift, I want to get it all on tape and share the video with our family, but not the whole world wide web - so I use the YouTube Unlisted and Private video options. I can send a link of the video to our friends and family without all of YouTube and the Internet knowing how she liked her new Kinect.

Of course, I want to do all this browsing safely. To help keep my data safe, I look for the “https” and lock icon on my browser. Google offers industry-leading encryption, which help prevent my searches and email from being intercepted by a third party. And of course, I follow the FTC’s safe browsing tips so that I can be sure my credit card information isn’t hijacked but is actually going to (again, Joyce, this is merely illustrative...)

Truth be told, I have no idea what I’m going to buy Joyce this year - I usually wait for inspiration and/or panic to strike. But whatever I come up with, Google’s Privacy Tools will help keep it a surprise. That and wrapping paper.

For more information about these and other ways to control your Google experience, check out our Privacy Tools page or this recent article from Ars Technica. Happy shopping!

Our thoughts on the European Commission review

(Cross-Posted from the European Public Policy Blog)

At Google, we’ve always focused on putting the user first by providing the best possible answers as quickly as possible - and our product innovation and engineering talent have delivered results that users seem to like, in a world where the competition is only one click away. However, given our success and the disruptive nature of our business, it’s entirely understandable that we’ve caused unease among other companies and caught the attention of regulators. Today, the European Commission has announced that they will continue to review complaints about Google's search and search advertising. We respect their process and will continue to work closely with the Commission to answer their questions.

So that everyone understands how we approach search and ads ranking, we thought it would be helpful to state clearly the principles that guide our business:
  • Answering users' queries accurately and quickly is our number one goal. Sometimes the best, most relevant answer to a query is our traditional “ten blue links”, and sometimes it is a news article, sports score, stock quote, video, or a map. Today, when you type in “weather in London” or “15 grams in ounces” you get the answers directly (often before you even hit Enter). In the future, we will need to answer much more complex questions just as fast and as clearly. We believe ads are information too, which is why we work so hard to ensure that the advertisements you see are directly relevant to what you are looking for;
  • We built Google for users, not websites. It may seem obvious, but people sometimes forget this -- not every website can come out on top, or even appear on the first page of our results, so there will almost always be website owners who are unhappy about their rankings. The most important thing is that we satisfy our users.
  • We are always clear when we have been paid for promoting a product or service. Before we launched Google, many search engines took money for inclusion in their results without making that clear to users. We have never done that and we always distinguished advertising content from our organic search results. As we experiment with new ad formats and types of content, we promise to continue to be transparent about payments.
  • We aim to be as transparent as possible. We provide more information about how our ranking works than any other major search engine, through our webmaster central site, blog, diagnostic tools, support forum, and YouTube channel. We give our advertisers information about the ad auction, tips on how to improve their ad quality scores, and the ability to simulate their bids to give them more transparency. And we’re committed to increasing that transparency going forward. At the same time, we don’t want to help people game our system. We do everything we can to ensure that the integrity of our results isn’t compromised.
Our final principle: the only constant is change. We’ve been working on this stuff for well over a decade, and in that time our search technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Our results are continuing to evolve from a list of websites to something far more dynamic. Today there’s real-time content, automatically translated content, local content (especially important for mobile devices), images, videos, books, and a whole lot more. Users can search by voice -- and in a variety of languages. And we’ve developed new ad formats such as product listing ads and new pricing models such as cost-per-action. We cannot predict where search and online advertising will be headed, but we know for sure that they won’t stay the same. By staying focused on innovation we can continue to make search even better -- for the benefit of users everywhere.

An update on our investment in O3b Networks

About two years ago we announced an initial investment in O3b Networks, whose mission is to bring affordable, high-speed Internet access to emerging markets via satellite. Earlier today O3b announced that it has wrapped up its final funding round before launch, and is planning to launch its first eight satellites in early 2013.

O3b stands for the “other 3 billion” – nearly half the world’s population for whom Internet access is scarce and expensive. In remote and developing areas where fiber is unavailable, users rely on slow and often costly satellite connections. To help solve this problem, O3b is planning to launch a constellation of medium-orbit satellites, providing users across 150 countries with high-speed Internet connectivity. These satellites will be four times closer to the Earth than regular geostationary satellites, meaning much faster speeds and a better experience for users.

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, and so we were early supporters of O3b. We’re glad that O3b is now fully funded to build, launch, and operate its first satellites – and remain excited about this project’s potential to bring the benefits of high-speed Internet access to billions of people for the first time.

Google D.C. Talk November 30 - Tim Wu: "The Master Switch"

Posted by Jenna Wandres, Public Policy Communications

Brilliant. Imaginative. Explosive. These are just some of things people are saying about Columbia professor Tim Wu’s new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.

Part history part crystal ball, The Master Switch analyzes the cycle of innovation to consolidation seen in the telephone, radio and television markets and what that could mean for the Internet. Join Professor Wu tomorrow to discuss the future of regulation in information economies. 

He’ll explain what the “Master Switch” is and what it could mean for you. He’ll tell us what role the government plays in “the Cycle.” And he’ll explain why the Internet is in danger - and what we can do to save it. 

Google’s Pablo Chavez will talk with Professor Wu about his book. Please RSVP and submit questions for the Professor at**

Google D.C. Talks Presents: 
Professor and Author Tim Wu
on his new book, 
The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010, 10AM - 12PM 

Google D.C. Office 
Washington, DC

**Google's use of this data is governed by our privacy policy found at

Apply for a 2011 Google Policy Fellowship

Last summer Google Fellow Gwen Glazer at the American Library Association focused on digitization, specifically on for content from small or mid-sized public libraries and other cultural heritage institutions. Rare materials, like local history collections and historic photographs and maps, present significant challenges to digitization, and Gwen’s proposal encouraged the creation of a national program that would digitize these archival materials and collect them in a free online interface to make them available to the public.

Ramtin Amtin at the Citizen Lab examined the recent changes to Google in China to study free expression as a human rights issue, and explored Internet censorship as a potential violation of world trade laws.

At the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Carolyn Homer wrote a legal paper on the meaning of online privacy policies, and published two op-eds on privacy on AOL News and in AdAge.

What will Google fellows do summer 2011? That’s up to you. Students of all levels and disciplines interested in Internet policy issues can apply starting today. The deadline for applications is January 17, 2011.

Selected students will spend ten weeks this summer working on issues as varied as free expression, privacy, security, and intellectual property with thought leaders at a diverse range of organizations, including: American Library Association, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, Cato Institute, Center for Democracy and Technology, The Citizen Lab, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Future of Music Coalition, Internet Education Foundation, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Media Access Project, National Hispanic Media Coalition, New America Foundation, Public Knowledge, TechFreedom, and the Technology Policy Institute.

You can learn about the program and host organizations on the Google Public Policy Fellowship website.

Senate Hearing on Digital Trade Protectionism

This afternoon Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon put the spotlight on an issue close to our heart and business operations: the need to protect and promote the free flow of information in international trade agreements. In a hearing on International Trade in the Digital Economy, Senator Wyden called for the U.S. government and others to come together to combat protectionism against digital exports -- a position that mirrors themes we raised in the trade white paper we released earlier this week.

At the hearing, Senator Wyden noted how the international reach of American technology companies directly affects the ability of all American companies to export goods and services, both digital and otherwise. The hearing noted the effect of these restrictions on all kinds of American companies, holding back trade and exports whether it is in digital services or physical goods.

We commend the Subcommittee’s leadership on this issue and agree with the fundamental principle that new trade agreements should require governments to preserve the free flow of information on the Internet. As a company, we’re particularly focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiations among the United States and eight Pacific Rim nations that we hope will produce a first-rate modern trade pact for today’s information economy. Embedding the free flow of information into this agreement will be critical.

Testimony and video of the hearing should be online soon at the Subcommittee’s website.

Promoting Free Trade for the Internet Economy

Today we’re releasing a white paper [PDF] that explores the ways that governments impose limits on the free flow of information online. It’s pretty wonky stuff, but the premise is simple: In addition to infringing human rights, governments that block the free flow of information on the Internet are also blocking trade and economic growth.

Over the last two decades, the Internet has delivered tremendous economic and trade benefits. It has driven record increases in productivity, spurred innovation, created new economies, and fueled international trade. In part this is because the Internet makes geographically distant markets easy to reach.

But this engine of economic growth is increasingly coming under attack. According to one study, more than forty governments now engage in broad-scale restriction of online information. Governments are blocking online services, imposing non-transparent regulation, and seeking to incorporate surveillance tools into their Internet infrastructure. These are the trade barriers of the 21st century economy.

In the paper we’re releasing today, we urge policymakers in the United States, European Union and elsewhere to take steps to break down barriers to free trade and Internet commerce. These issues present challenges, but also an opportunity for governments to align 21st century trade policy with the 21st century economy.

Forrester analyst: Google-ITA Software deal “legitimate and fair”

Forrester travel analyst Henry Harteveldt spoke on CNBC Tuesday about the Google-ITA Software acquisition, saying:
...In the end, Google has made a legitimate and fair claim to buy ITA Software, and I think there’s a little bit of sour grapes on the part of some of the companies that are not the companies buying ITA.
Check it out:

Handy tools to help Americans vote

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

As Americans gear up for the midterm elections on November 2, we wanted to share a few tools that make it easier to gather voting information.

When you search on Google for [polling place] or [where to vote], you’ll see a search box to help you find your polling place, candidates, and local election office. Just type in the home address where you’re registered to vote. The search looks like this:

This feature is powered by the Google Election Center, an experimental service that lets election officials provide data directly to Google in order to create a set of search tools. Anyone with a website can also provide this same functionality by embedding the open source Election Center gadget on your site, or use the gadget code or API to build your own.

And you don’t need to be at your computer to easily find this information. If you’d rather get it on your mobile device, we’ve also created a mobile landing page:

As for election news, you’ll find a special Google News section with stories for each state so you can easily catch up on the latest headlines.

We hope all of these tools help you get and stay informed throughout the election season.