Partnering with the American Red Cross to Support Wounded, Ill and Injured Warriors

Last week, Google launched the “Chrome for Wounded, Ill and Injured Warriors” program in partnership with the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces. Google has donated 600 Chromebooks to the Red Cross for exclusive use by wounded, ill and injured warriors during their recovery at five polytrauma centers.

To kick off the program, 20 members of the Google Veterans Network, our employee resource group dedicated to veterans’ issues, paid a visit to some friends over at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. We delivered 275 of the Chromebooks and led one-on-one training over the course of two days with warriors, their family members, hospital staff, and Red Cross volunteers.

We realize that technology plays a huge role in staying in touch with friends and family, and we hope that these Chromebooks will help our wounded, ill and injured warriors do just that. For many of these soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and coasties, emailing, chatting, calling, and video are a primary connection point to family and friends spread across the world.

An additional 325 Chromebooks have been distributed to Red Cross stations at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Womack Army Medical Center, Navy Medical Center San Diego and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

We are proud to partner with the American Red Cross on this initiative. Take a minute to check out the blog post from the Red Cross about the visit.

Cuban backbone, November 2003

When the undersea cable is lit, Cuban connectivity to the outside world will improve dramatically, but we know nothing about plans for complementary improvements in the domestic infrastructure -- equipment or people -- needed to take advantage of the added external capacity.
In a comment on an earlier post asking about such plans, "Muchas Gracias" points us to a November 2003 presentation on Cuban telecommunications by the executive president of ETECSA, José Antonio Fernández Martínez.

The presentation reviews ETECSA investment, telephony, and the Internet. For me, the highlight of the presentation were two slides showing the fiber and microwave backbones. These are eight years old, and, except for Havana, say nothing about local fiber, but they are the best we have at present.

Draft of paper on the past, present and future of the Cuban Internet

I have drafted a paper on the Past, Present and Future of the Internet in Cuba. Your comments and suggestions would help me improve it.

The paper is based on a talk I gave at the conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy last August. You can see video of that presentation and download the PowerPoint slides here.

Missing report on the cost of the embargo

Next week the United Nations General Assembly will debate the "necessity of ending" the US embargo of Cuba. It is difficult to refrain from expressing an opinion on this topic, but I vowed to keep politics off this blog, so will not.

But, there is an Internet tie in. I have read news of of a Cuban report to the United Nations, which states that the US trade embargo is crippling their telecommunications and costing millions of dollars in lost revenue each year.

I tried to follow up on this, but could not find the report or reference to it on the UN Web site. Has anyone seen it or the data supporting it?

What's happening with the cable?

The last news I heard of the ALBA-1 cable was in August, when it was announced that it would begin operation in September or October.

I was waiting till the end of the month to ask about the cable, but the Havana Times recently published an editorial asking "who ate the cable?" They imply that the cable has been delayed or perhaps even stopped by graft and allude to Ramiro Valdés' statement comparing the Internet to “a wild horse yet to be tamed.”

Can anyone supply us with an update on the cable?

More data, more transparency around government requests

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

How do governments affect access to information on the Internet? To help shed some light on that very question, last year we launched an online, interactive Transparency Report. All too often, policy that affects how information flows on the Internet is created in the absence of empirical data. But by showing traffic patterns and disruptions to our services, and by sharing how many government requests for content removal and user data we receive from around the world, we hope to offer up some metrics to contribute to a public conversation about the laws that influence how people communicate online.

Today we’re updating the Government Requests tool with numbers for requests that we received from January to June 2011. For the first time, we’re not only disclosing the number of requests for user data, but we’re showing the number of users or accounts that are specified in those requests too. We also recently released the raw data behind the requests. Interested developers and researchers can now take this data and revisualize it in different ways, or mash it up with information from other organizations to test and draw up new hypotheses about government behaviors online.

We believe that providing this level of detail highlights the need to modernize laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which regulates government access to user information and was written 25 years ago—long before the average person had ever heard of email. Yet at the end of the day, the information that we’re disclosing offers only a limited snapshot. We hope others join us in the effort to provide more transparency, so we’ll be better able to see the bigger picture of how regulatory environments affect the entire web.

Technology and human rights

Every day we see Internet users around the world finding new ways to use technology to help bring about political, economic and social change. It’s exciting to see people exercise their rights to freely express themselves and access information across borders and media -- rights first enshrined in Article 19 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights long before the Internet existed.

Far less clear, however, are the long-term implications of rapid technological development for human rights: What’s the balance between people using social media to empower themselves and governments using it to oppress their own citizens? How do governments create national policies when the Internet breaks borders? And what role do companies have in enabling or protecting the free exchange of ideas?

These questions and more will be addressed at the first ever Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, taking place in San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 25 and 26. Activists, academics, and analysts will meet with engineers, entrepreneurs, and executives for discussion about how and when technology can advance human rights.

We’re pleased to be the original sponsor of Rightscon, as it’s being called. Several Googlers from the public policy team, as well as speakers from YouTube, will be participating on panels and in roundtable discussions on topics from free expression and government regulation to transparency and intermediary liability. You can see the full agenda here.

We want you to be part of the conversation, too. So in partnership with Access, the non-profit which is hosting the event, we will be live streaming the plenary speeches and panels from 9am to 5pm PT on each day of the conference on CitizenTube, YouTube’s News and Politics channel. We hope you’ll tune in and participate.

Making search more secure

(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)

We’ve worked hard over the past few years to increase our services’ use of an encryption protocol called SSL, as well as encouraging the industry to adopt stronger security standards. For example, we made SSL the default setting in Gmail in January 2010 and introduced an encrypted search service located at four months later. Other prominent web companies have also added SSL support in recent months.

As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver. As a result, we’re enhancing our default search experience for signed-in users. Over the next few weeks, many of you will find yourselves redirected to (note the extra “s”) when you’re signed in to your Google Account. This change encrypts your search queries and Google’s results page. This is especially important when you’re using an unsecured Internet connection, such as a WiFi hotspot in an Internet cafe. You can also navigate to directly if you’re signed out or if you don’t have a Google Account.

What does this mean for sites that receive clicks from Google search results? When you search from, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won't receive information about each individual query. They can also receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days through Google Webmaster Tools. This information helps webmasters keep more accurate statistics about their user traffic. If you choose to click on an ad appearing on our search results page, your browser will continue to send the relevant query over the network to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you.

As we continue to add more support for SSL across our products and services, we hope to see similar action from other websites. That’s why our researchers publish information about SSL and provide advice to help facilitate broader use of the protocol. We hope that today’s move to increase the privacy and security of your web searches is only the next step in a broader industry effort to employ SSL encryption more widely and effectively.

Good to Know

We know that staying safe while navigating the web can be a challenge for many people. Today, we’re launching a new resource on the Google website, Good to Know, that makes learning about security and privacy even easier for our users.

Privacy policies and terms of service can often be long, complex and legalistic. Our goal with the Good To Know campaign is to provide people with practical guidance, like how to select a safe password or keep their online accounts secure. In the past few years, we’ve tried to make it easier for our users to learn about staying safe online by equipping them with a variety of tools through our Privacy, Security, and Family Safety centers.

The new Good to Know website builds on this commitment to explaining things in simple language. The in-depth resources are still there, but we hope a one-stop-shop resource will make this information more accessible for everyone. Improving media literacy is a shared task, and we’ll continue to do our part to help empower and educate consumers.

Open Government in Action

When someone uses Google to search, it’s our job to provide them with answers.  We’ve come a long way in developing search technology that delivers the most relevant results for our users, but there are still some answers that are difficult to find and provide.

This became painfully clear during the health care debate last year.  In the space of a few weeks, we had a sharp increase in search queries about the health care bill or a specific provision of the legislation.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t provide the best information to our users simply because a lot of congressional information isn’t readily available in a digital format.

Congress and members of Congress share information in a lot of modern ways through Twitter, Facebook, and on the web, but some congressional data sharing processes are older than Congress itself, as groups like the Sunlight Foundation have pointed out.  

Last week, Karen Haas, the Clerk for the House of Representatives, changed the game dramatically.  She led an effort to update the Clerk’s legislative activities page so that it now includes a huge amount of browsable and searchable information.  The new features include detailed summaries of daily floor action, what bills were debated and introduced each day (with links to the full text of the bill) and a detailed summary of every vote.  

In addition, each “house floor proceedings” page now includes archived video from the House floor and a detailed XML file for each day’s activity so that web developers and others can use and share this information.  

The House of Representatives has demonstrated great leadership on this project.  We look forward to using this congressional data to improve Google Search now and in the future as the congressional commitment to open government expands.  

Two days in D.C. for the winners of the Google Science Fair

(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog and the Google Science Fair blog)

Last week, 17-year-old Shree Bose from Fort Worth, Texas, the grand prize winner of the Google Science Fair, visited Washington, D.C. at the invitation of the White House. We invited Shree to write about her experience in the capital. - Ed.

Adrenaline. I turned around as the brilliantly polished door behind me opened, and suddenly I was face to face with a man I’d seen so many times on television. The President of the United States calmly extended his hand to shake mine and those of Naomi and Lauren, the other two winners of Google’s first-ever Science Fair. He knew about our projects and was genuinely excited to talk with us.

The Oval Office is more than just a room. It has a palpable aura of grandeur, with the presidential seal in the center of the deep blue carpet and a portrait of George Washington hanging on the wall. The desk, where presidents of the past have contemplated some of the most important decisions in the world’s history, was polished to a gleam. President Obama leaned against it as he talked to us.

He asked us how we became interested in science, what our plans were for the future and which colleges we were interested in. Smiling, he told us to stick with science. We left the Oval Office feeling like our individual futures were important to the nation’s future; like we could change the world.

Our trip to Washington, D.C., also included visits to the National Institute of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Over our two days, we were given the opportunity to sit down and talk with many of our country’s leaders who have not only been extraordinarily successful in the fields we wish to go into in the future, but who also encouraged us to follow our own dreams. It was more than just meetings; it was inspiration.

Naomi Shah, Shree Bose and Lauren Hodge meet President Obama in the Oval Office
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2011: Our Shared Responsibility

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

On the Internet, as with the offline world, the choices we make often have an impact on others. The links we share and the sites we visit can affect our security and sometimes introduce risk for people we know. Given how quickly our collective use of technology is evolving, it’s useful to periodically remind ourselves of practices that can help us achieve a more secure and enjoyable online experience.

This month, Google once again joins the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), government agencies, corporations, schools and non-profit organizations in recognizing National Cyber Security Awareness Month. It’s a time for us to offer education that increases online security for everyone.

It’s fitting that the theme of this year’s Cyber Security Awareness Month is “Our Shared Responsibility.” With ever-increasing ways to access the web and share information, we need to focus on keeping our activities secure. In that spirit, and to help kick off Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’re introducing a new Google Security Center. The Security Center is full of practical tips and information to help people stay safe online, from choosing a secure password to using 2-step verification and avoiding phishing sites and malware.

We also continue to develop products and services that help people protect their information online. Examples that have stood out so far this year include the Chromebook, 2-step verification in 40 languages, and Chrome browser warnings for malicious downloads and out-of-date plugins, among others. We develop free products and tools such as DOM Snitch, a Chrome extension that helps developers identify insecure code.

We recognize the importance of security education and are committed to helping make your online experience both exciting and safe to use. We all have a responsibility to take steps to protect ourselves and together develop a culture of security. We encourage everyone to Stop. Think. Connect.

Accessibility: A Progress Report

Over the past few months, my colleagues and I have worked closely with advocacy organizations for the blind to improve our products. We have had a number of meetings with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and American Council of the Blind (ACB) to discuss planned updates, to involve their members in early product testing, and most recently at the end of August to discuss our progress. This summer, Alan Eustace, our Senior VP of Engineering, was invited to speak at the NFB’s national convention and he thanked them for sharing their constructive feedback with us. At the CSUN conference in March and the ACB conference in July, we held focus groups to better understand blind users’ experience with assistive technologies and how our products could be improved. In August, we launched a survey with the ACB to study computer usage and assistive technology patterns in the blind community.

Last month, we announced some accessibility enhancements, including improved keyboard shortcuts and support for screen readers in Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Calendar. We also hosted a public webinar to discuss how our product updates might affect users in business, government and education settings. While we hope these enhancements make it easier for people who rely on assistive technologies to work and collaborate using our products, we recognize that our work isn’t done and we remain committed to making our products more accessible.

We’re grateful for the early and supportive feedback we’ve received from our colleagues at the advocacy organizations. In a statement posted on the National Federation of the Blind’s (NFB’s) website, Mark Riccobono commented that the NFB “is pleased that Google has been actively engaged with us in their work to solve access issues... Many improvements still need to be made before Google applications are fully accessible to blind users, but the enhancements that we have seen demonstrated indicate a commitment to accessibility by Google.”

“We are pleased to see the amount of progress that Google has made over the summer to these apps,” said Eric Bridges, the Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs for the American Council of the Blind (ACB). “We expect to test even more improvements in the coming months. Thousands of ACB’s blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind members are eager to take advantage of the convenience and flexibility that cloud-based applications like Google Docs, Gmail, Calendar, and Spreadsheet offer. Our goal is to insure that our members don’t get left behind.”

In the coming months, we’ll continue to collaborate with advocacy organizations to improve our products for blind users. We believe that people who depend on assistive technologies deserve as rich and as productive an experience on the web as sighted users, and we’re working to help that become a reality.

For more information on our accessibility enhancements, how to send us feedback and how to track our progress, visit

Digital due process for e-book readers

E-book sales are booming, creating new opportunity for authors and publishers. E-books have also fundamentally changed the way that readers discover and access books, opening vast libraries and making them available in the cloud via Google Books and other providers.

But the laws governing your rights as a reader haven’t evolved nearly as quickly. Forty-eight states have special “books laws” that limit when the government can compel disclosure of records regarding your book buying and reading. It’s not always clear, however, to what extent such laws apply to booksellers, including online stores.

It’s important that our laws reflect the way people live their lives today. That’s why we’re pleased to see that California signed into law the Reader Privacy Act, which clarifies the law and ensures that there are high standards before booksellers -- whether they’re selling print or digital books -- can be compelled to turn over reading records. This law takes a careful, balanced approach, protecting readers’ privacy while allowing for legitimate law enforcement access with a warrant or under specific, narrow exceptions. This bill was sponsored by Sen. Leland Yee, championed by the ACLU of Northern California and Electronic Frontier Foundation, and supported by a number of others, including Google.

We believe that our laws should protect individuals from unwarranted government intrusion in the online world no less than they do in the home, library, or bookstore, even as information and computing technology continue to advance. This is why we already invoke existing “books laws” when necessary to protect readers’ privacy, and why we’ve backed laws at the federal level to update the rules that protect your data stored in the cloud.