(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)
Starting in 1973, when my colleagues and I proposed the technology behind the Internet, we advocated for an open standard to connect computer networks together. This wasn’t merely philosophical; it was also practical.
Our protocols were designed to make the networks of the Internet non-proprietary and interoperable. They avoided “lock-in,” and allowed for contributions from many sources. This openness is why the Internet creates so much value today. Because it is borderless and belongs to everyone, it has brought unprecedented freedoms to billions of people worldwide: the freedom to create and innovate, to organize and influence, to speak and be heard.
But starting in a few hours, a closed-door meeting of the world’s governments is taking place in Dubai, and regulation of the Internet is on the agenda. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is convening a conference from December 3-14 to revise a decades-old treaty, in which only governments have a vote. Some proposals could allow governments to justify the censorship of legitimate speech, or even cut off Internet access in their countries.
You can read more about my concerns on CNN.com, but I am not alone. So far, more than 1,000 organizations from more than 160 countries have spoken up too, and they’re joined by hundreds of thousands of Internet users who are standing up for a free and open Internet. On an interactive map at freeandopenweb.com, you can see that people from all corners of the world have signed our petition, used the #freeandopen hashtag on social media, or created and uploaded videos to say how important these issues are.
If you agree and want to support a free and open Internet too, I invite you to join us by signing the petition at google.com/takeaction. Please make your voice heard and spread the word.
Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog
For several years now, we’ve been working to help the veteran community through outreach programs and by connecting veterans and their families to useful Google products and services. For example, we’ve built tools like the Veterans Job Bank to connect veterans with employers, today populated with more than a million jobs. And we created a Resume Builder to help job-seekers represent their experience in just a few clicks with Google Docs.
After years of working with the community, we’ve come to realize that it isn’t more tools that are needed, but rather organizing the ones that already exist, and making them easier to find. Perhaps the most complex challenge facing the veteran community today is the sheer volume of resources available to help them transition to civilian life. While this abundance is the measure of a grateful nation, and a tribute to those who served, in the end, the most important result is individuals and families getting the help they need.
With this in mind, we’ve put the powers of Google+ behind a single hub called VetNet. Today, VetNet launches as a partnership with three founding organizations: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and Hire Heroes USA. In the long run, other organizations will be able to offer their services to the veteran community, all in the same easy-to-use place.
- Basic Training Track (google.com/+VetNetBasic): The place to start. From resumes to interviewing tips to advice from buddies. Dial into our first Resume Workshop today at 3pm EST.
- Career Connections Track (google.com/+VetNetCareer): Walmart, GE and Capital One are just a few of the companies that are participating in VetNet to help veterans and military spouses find civilian careers. Check out today’s Vets In Finance panel at 2pm EST.
- Entrepreneur Track (google.com/+VetNetEntrepreneur): An 8-week college-level course on the fundamentals of starting a business, starting next week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog
We think it’s important to shine a light on how government actions could affect our users. When we first launched the Transparency Report in early 2010, there wasn’t much data out there about how governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the web. So we took our first step toward greater transparency by disclosing the number of government requests we received. At the time, we weren’t sure how things would look beyond that first snapshot, so we pledged to release numbers twice a year. Today we’re updating the Transparency Report with data about government requests from January to June 2012.
This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise. As you can see from the graph below, government demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report. In the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world. Those requests were for information about 34,614 accounts.
The number of government requests to remove content from our services was largely flat from 2009 to 2011. But it’s spiked in this reporting period. In the first half of 2012, there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content.
You can see the country-by-country trends for requests to hand over user data and to remove content from our services in the Transparency Report itself, but in aggregate around the world, the numbers continue to go up.
As always, we continue to improve the Transparency Report with each data release. Like before, we’re including annotations for this time period with interesting facts. We’re also showing new bar graphs with data in addition to tables to better display content removal trends over time. We’ve now translated the entire Transparency Report into 40 languages, and we’ve expanded our FAQ—including one that explains how we sometimes receive falsified court orders asking us to remove content. We do our best to verify the legitimacy of the documents we receive, and if we determine that any are fake, we don’t comply.
The information we disclose is only an isolated sliver showing how governments interact with the Internet, since for the most part we don’t know what requests are made of other technology or telecommunications companies. But we’re heartened that in the past year, more companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net and Twitter have begun to share their statistics too. Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the Internet free and open.
The statement accuses the Interests Section of doing illegal training and establishing illegal internet connections and networks.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington that "We are absolutely guilty of those charges. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana does regularly offer free courses in using the Internet to Cubans who want to sign up. We also have computers available for Cubans to use. Obviously this wouldn't be necessary if the Cuban government didn't restrict access to the Internet and prevent its own citizens from getting technology training."
This activity has been going on for some time -- my question is "why publish this statement now?" Does it signal a coming crackdown on the Interests Section? Is it an attempt to influence the U. S. election somehow?
Let us know if you have any knowledge of the Interests Section classes and Internet access. Are the classes political as Cuba claims? Do they only offer access to anti-government activists?
But, everyone cannot necessarily get (or afford) a passport.
The law says a passport can be denied in the interests of defense and national security, to preserve the skilled workforce for economic, social, and scientific-technical development and to protect official information. If that is not enough, the authorities can also deny a passport for "other reasons of public interest."
It is easy to imagine these caveats being used to deny passports to people like dissident bloggers, networking professionals, and computer science students and professors. One can also imagine freer flows of information and IT goods -- particularly between Cuba and the US.
Time will tell.
The following are the actions Freedom House looks for. Those marked with a (C) are practiced in Cuba.
- Web 2.0 blocked (C)
- Notable political blocking (C)
- Localized or nationwide ICT shut down
- Pro-government commentators manipulate online discussions (C)
- New law /regulation increasing censorship or punishment passed
- New law /regulation increasing surveillance or restricting anonymity
- Blogger/ICT user arrested for political or social writings (C)
- Blogger/ICT user physically attacked or killed (C)
- Technical attacks against government critics
The following figures establish some context. This world map shows the nations that Freedom House rates as not free, somewhat free and free.
Here we see all of the not free nations. Cuba is next to last, leading only Iran.
Part of the problem in Cuba is very low Internet penetration in homes, as shown below.
Bear in mind that the correlation we see here between Internet penetration and the index of freedom does not establish causality -- in fact the two variables reinforce each other.
Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog
Startups and entrepreneurs have the power to build technologies and creative solutions that transform the world and move us forward. Innovation is happening everywhere: There are approximately 400 million entrepreneurs across 54 countries, and 69 million early-stage entrepreneurs offering new products and services. As Google turns 14 this month, we’re celebrating this creative spirit and officially launching Google for Entrepreneurs, the umbrella for our several dozen programs and partnerships around the world that support startups and entrepreneurs.
Our focus is threefold:
- Partnerships with strong organizations that serve entrepreneurs in local communities
- Google-led programs to bring our teams and our tools directly to entrepreneurs
- Placing relevant Google tools in the hands of startups as they are getting off the ground and ready to scale
To celebrate both our birthday and the spirit of entrepreneurship that’s helped get us where we are today, we are hosting our first annual Google for Entrepreneurs Week, which will bring together more than 3,000 entrepreneurs and Googlers around the world. We kicked off over the weekend with a Startup Weekend event hosted at the Google Ventures Startup Lab in Mountain View, Calif., where Bay Area entrepreneurs came together to create their own startups in 54 hours. Over the course of the next week, Googlers in 28 cities across 13 countries will be hosting an event in their communities to bring their passion and expertise to local entrepreneurs. We’re teaming with a number of partners to make this happen, including the Idea Village in New Orleans, Communitech in Waterloo, Tetuan Valley in Wroclaw, the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Johannesburg and the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce in Iowa.
For more on these existing programs and to stay connected on upcoming events, visit google.com/entrepreneurs and follow us on G+.
At Google, we believe in the incredible potential for harnessing technology and the compassion of the human spirit to do good, to learn, and to help each other grow. We have seen inspiring examples of this with the extraordinary projects from the Google Science Fair and on YouTube with the It Gets Better Project.
In step with our commitment to expand and promote digital citizenship, Google is a proud sponsor of a new initiative -- A Platform for Good.
A Platform for Good, a Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) initiative, is an interactive online portal that empowers parents, teachers, teens and kids to connect and share knowledge about being responsible digital citizens.
With the support of companies, organizations and experts within the tech industry, A Platform for Good (PfG) will focus on the positive power of the Internet, using fun and engaging interactive elements to support online safety learning. One of the many exciting elements of PfG is the Teach Teachers Tech video series, led by Adora Svitak and sponsored by Google. Adora, 14, starts the series off with what inspires students about technology and ends with a challenge to students and teachers to submit their own stories.
A Platform for Good will reach students, parents and teachers in a new way, while addressing the need for a comprehensive approach to digital citizenship. See you at aplatformforgood.com!
Her post reminded me of the early days, when you could walk into a government storefront in Havana and get the latest software from the US copied onto floppy disks. You had to bring your own floppies and, if you wanted a copy of the manual, your own copier paper. I was surprised at how current the software was.
Do others have anecdotes or data on the traffic in flash-drive content -- cultural or political?
This week is the annual Technology Policy Institute Aspen Summit and our general counsel Kent Walker just gave a keynote talk on the ingredients of creating magical new products -- and how policymakers and regulators can ensure that patent and competition policy enable future magical inventions. Check out the prepared text of Kent's speech by clicking here.
But, unbeknownst to ACM, the ban has been lifted. A lawsuit challenging the ban was filed in 2004 and settled in 2007. It turns out that scientific and technical publication is now permitted. (More detail, including copies of correspondence with IEEE, is available here).
Well, it took a Federal law suit, but Cuban computer scientists and engineers and others can now be published in the US without the publisher obtaining a license.
Ms. Cotton told me that the information on the law change was forwarded to the ACM Director of Publications and/or the Publication Review Board for a formal resolution. Bernard Rous, ACM's Director of Publications, followed up with a search of the ACM Digital Library, which turned up 13 articles with authors from Cuba. He pointed out that most seemed to be co-authored with authors in Brazil or Spain, which is also consistent with Muchas Gracias' claim.
I also checked with Fran Tardo, External Communications Manager at IEEE, about their policy. She told me IEEE had requested and been granted a general license for publishing in December 2004. Based on this ruling, IEEE developed its policy for the handling of manuscripts from authors in embargoed countries. As I read it, it seems to be saying that an author from an embargoed nation would be treated the same as any other author.
In addition to all they do for their country overseas, service members are also a markedly entrepreneurial group: although veterans represent only 6% of the U.S. population, they account for an impressive 13.5% of all U.S. small business owners. This entrepreneurial spirit is contributing to business growth around the country, and last week we decided to head down to San Diego to see how Google for Entrepreneurs and Startup Weekend could help.
On August 9, Google for Entrepreneurs, along with the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Startup Weekend, hosted a series of events focused on giving business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs from the military community the training and tools they need to take advantage of the web to build and grow businesses. More than 200 service members learned about free tools to create a web site, track and measure their web presence and market their product or service.
Engaged and full of pride, the veteran-owned businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs came from across California. Misty Birchall, a Navy veteran and founder of PubCakes, delighted attendees when she gave us a taste of her passion for combining baking and craft beer. Marine Corps sergeant turned organic farmer Colin Archipley brought many participants from Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training, an entrepreneurial incubator program he founded to help transitioning veterans train for careers in sustainable agriculture. Even the underdogs (and undercats) were well-represented—Precious Paw Prints, an online retailer selling creative pet accessories owned by Marine veteran Kiersten Carlin, shared that small business can win by providing a higher level of quality and service that larger brands cannot.
Over the following weekend, aspiring entrepreneurs from the veterans community attended the local Startup Weekend, where they formed teams to turn their idea ideas into products. By Sunday night, five teams had launched businesses.
Being a successful entrepreneur means having an appetite for risk, an ability to navigate ambiguity and a passion to get things done at all costs; it’s no mystery why such a large number of small businesses are started by veterans or service-disabled veterans. They certainly have what it takes to be entrepreneurs.
You can read more about our recent programs for members of the veterans’ community here.
Cross-posted from the Google Research blog
At Google, we're constantly trying to make important collections of information more useful to the world. Since 2006, we’ve let people discover, search, and read United States patents online. Starting this week, you can do the same for the millions of ideas that have been submitted to the European Patent Office, such as this one.
Typically, patents are granted only if an invention is new and not obvious. To explain why an invention is new, inventors will usually cite prior art such as earlier patent applications or journal articles. Determining the novelty of a patent can be difficult, requiring a laborious search through many sources, and so we’ve built a Prior Art Finder to make this process easier. With a single click, it searches multiple sources for related content that existed at the time the patent was filed.
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an important House Concurrent Resolution aimed at ensuring the Internet remains an open, stable, and global platform for economic growth, innovation, and cultural and civic discourse. As I have recently testified and written, a battle in the war for the Internet is opening at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations organization. This December, the ITU is conducting a review of the international agreements governing telecommunications, and some member countries see the ITU conference as an opportunity to expand the ITU’s regulatory authority to reach the Internet.
Traditionally, international discussions of Internet policy have flourished in a “multistakeholder” system that involves the input of lawmakers, academics, civil society, and users. If certain member states are successful in Dubai, they could change the Internet governance process as we know it, increasing state control over networks and substantially limiting the role of users and other vital, nongovernmental actors in important Internet policy debates.
By passing this resolution, the U.S. Government has recognized the Internet’s critical role in growing the global economy, its unique status as a platform for innovation, and the success of multistakeholder model that lies at the heart of its governance. In the lead-up to the December conference, the future of the Internet is at stake, and I hope that other countries will adopt publicly similar positions.
Alberto, who was one of the kids at the YCC in Havana, recently left a comment on the About post for this blog. Since it gives us a picture of a young person's access to computing a decade ago, I asked if I could copy it as a post and he said "yes." Here it is:
"I lived in Old Havana until 2001 – at the time, I was starting High School and recall that during my last year there my school managed to get their hands on a handful of desktop computers. Of course, internet connectivity was unheard of, but people were highly fascinated with the prospects of technology.
Access to those computers was extremely restricted, even though one couldn’t do much with them (or knew what to do with them). The room they were in seemed more like a small fortress than a computer lab – doors were locked from the outside with heavy chains and windows blocked with metal bars (despite being on the third floor of the building). Fascinating times.
Through a family friend I managed to land a basic “computer science” class at a center in Old Havana – the name of the institution escapes me, but I clearly recall it was one of those rare buildings with blasting air conditioning. That aspect alone was worth the 15-blocks walk from my apartment to the center. The class tried to teach the very basic functionalities of Windows – right & left clicks, creating a new folder, word documents, etc. I can’t say I learned much.
I did have a friend whose father was a college professor who had some engagement with Etecsa. They somehow managed to get a personal computer into their house, with dialup internet access and everything. It was indeed a very well kept secret. Sadly, most of the time was spent trying to reconnect to the internet as the connection was extremely unreliable. He went on to study computer science in Havana and today works in the field there. From what he tells me, his job is now a large waste of resources. As he describes it, “they pretend to pay me and I pretend to do work.”
On my side, it wasn’t until I arrived to the states that I truly learned to use a computer. Two years after my arrival (while still learning English), I was doing web development and running a local site centered around education and social gatherings. Two years later, I went off to the University of Chicago for Economics and continued to work on web ventures while there. To date I’ve worked on many web projects, mostly in the entertainment space and other more serious ones: hello.webicator.com (current project, under development). This service may be of interest to readers of this blog, LP.
Today I work with a group of economists at a bank in New York, but follow the topic of internet penetration closely, not only in Cuba, but in Latin America as a whole. Data from the World Bank suggest that Latam is today where the US was at the end of the 1990s in terms of internet penetration. However, the pace of growth appears to be greater than it was in the US, which makes sense intuitively given that the technology already exists – now it only needs to become cheaper and for countries to obtain the infrastructure to sustain it.
Cuba is sadly a very different story since politics plays such a large role. I suspect that the spread of internet, when it comes, could potentially lead to a shift in mentality – with a greater sense of awareness about life outside of Cuba, will arguably emerge a greater desire for change. When the day comes, I am sure tighter content filters will be implemented, but individuals will always find ways to circumvent them, as they do in China. Indeed a very sensitive topic."
If you are or were a student in Cuba, was Alberto's experience similar to yours?
|Number of computers (thousands)||724||783||8%|
|Number of networked computers (thousands)||434||470||8%|
|Number of Internet users (thousands)||1,790||2,610||46%|
|Internet users/1,000 capita||159||232||46%|
|Number of .cu domains||2,225||2,285||3%|
|Mobile telephone subscribers (thousands)||1,003||1,315||31%|
|% of population with mobile access||78||78|
The new figures reveal a lack of investment. There was only a 3% gain in the number of domains registered in the .cu top level domain, indicating that few new enterprises or other organizations created Web sites or other network applications. The fact that no increase was reported in the percent of the population with access to mobile phones indicates little investment in infrastructure.
The most positive figure may be a 31% increase in mobile phone subscribers, but we should bear in mind that Cuba has second generation phones, used for conversation and text messages, not the smart phones that are increasingly used as pocket computers and Internet access devices in developing nations.
I understand that these figures are government supplied and definitions of indicators vary among agencies like ONE and the ITU, but presumably ONE's 2010 and 2011 methodology is the same. I'd welcome discussion of and alternative interpretations of these and other statistics.
This story reminded me of a visit to Cuba in the mid 1990s -- before Cuba's IP link was established. I recall bounding up a staircase to a spare second floor office in Havana with an enthusiastic young man who proudly showed me the PC that handled international UUCP trafic and hosted some email accounts for Tinored. (It may have been Tinored system administrator Carlos Valdes, I'm not sure). At the time of that visit, we were not political, not Cubans and Americans, but confident, naive citizens of the network.
Yoani's post took me back to that day, because it sounds like the Desdecuba server is configured like that of Tinored in 1995, requiring hands-on management. It also reminded me of my school's first Web server, which ran on the desktop computer in my office. It was running Windows 3.0, and crashed a lot. I had to go to my office and reboot it whenever that happened.
Coinicidentally, I just posted a teaching note tracing the evolution of the ways we deploy applications on the Internet. It has gone from standalone PCs to server rooms, blade servers, datacenters, virtual servers and virtual servers in the cloud. I no longer worry about servers and my Web site and blogs have not been down for years.
Obsolete technology caused Yoani to miss her vacation, but, more important, it means that a generation of Cuban users and technicians are being trained on obsolete technology. The technicians are learning skills that have little application outside of Cuba today. The users do not know what the modern Internet is like so they cannot envision new applications, and trained, demanding users drive Internet innovation.
With the ALBA 1 undersea cable, Cuba has a chance to start bringing some users and technicians into the modern era. (See this earlier post). For the sake of Yoani and anyone who is still telnetting into a computer to read text email, I hope they do it soon.
YouTube is proud to be a place where citizens and activists come to tell their stories -- stories that may otherwise go unnoticed. A study released this week by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that YouTube is a top destination for news and that “citizens play a substantial role in supplying and producing footage.”
But this level of exposure can be risky to the citizens shooting the footage and the people who appear in their videos.
Today, we announced a new face blurring tool that represents a first step toward providing visual anonymity in video.
Of course, anonymity is never a guarantee, and people who capture sensitive video footage should consider taking other precautions to keep themselves and their subjects safe. Here are three suggestions:
1. Assess your risk. You and the people you film may face risk by posting video online. You may risk your own safety and that of your subjects while filming sensitive footage, during the editing process, and when you distribute your film online. After assessing the vulnerability you and your subjects face, you can make more informed decisions about when to film, whether to distribute your footage, and how widely you want to share it.
2. Consider other information which may give away identity. Video footage of your face is not the only way someone can detect your identity. Other factors that may be caught on video can also identify you or your subjects. Watch out for vocal identifiers, like recognizable voices or saying someone’s name on camera. Other footage can give away identity like a license plate, a name tag, or even the background scenery. Make sure that the imagery in your videos does not give away information about your location or identity.
3. Protect yourself when uploading. Consider, for example, local laws that may allow authorities to track the mobile device from which you upload. In certain countries, merely purchasing a sim card puts users at risk of tracking by government.
Over the past seven years, YouTube has evolved into a destination for citizen reporting. Along with curating projects like the Human Rights Channel and CitizenTube, we hope that the new technologies we’re rolling out will facilitate the sharing of even more stories on our platform.
Thanks to the Internet, trade has never been easier. The ability to trade goods and services online has helped companies large and small to reach a global marketplace. And the web has also enabled another important cross-border transaction: the free flow of information without restriction.
This month, yet another country acknowledged the importance of having a consistent framework for cross-border flows of goods, services, and information. Mauritius is the first African country to sign a joint agreement with the U.S. that supports government transparency, open Internet networks, and cross-border information flows.
This agreement has significant implications for Mauritius’ economy. While South Africa hasn’t yet fully embraced the Internet, the sector already contributes up to 2 percent (or $7.1 billion/R59-billion) of the country’s GDP, according to a recent report by World Wide Worx. As the Internet grows, countries that are open to the free flow of goods and information will enable their businesses to trade, negotiate and advertise freely. In the long run, these solid business practices will lead to more exports and more jobs.
We encourage more governments and industries to take action so that their citizens have access to the Internet and their businesses are able to sell goods and services across borders, with the help of the Internet.
Today in Nairobi, at the biannual Global Voices Citizen Media summit, Google and the group Global Voices announced the winners of the 2nd Breaking Borders Award. The award honors people who, in the view of Global Voices, are making a difference in the push for a free and open Internet.
The 2012 winners were selected by the board of Global Voices, and come from two regions in the world where free speech is often threatened — North Africa and Central Europe.
In Morocco, Mamfakinch has become far and away the most popular Moroccan citizen media portal. The name means "we don't give up" in that nation's Arabic dialect. Mamfakinch uses volunteer editors to aggregate and curate materials from its contributors. In less than a year, the site grew from a "crazy idea" to a site with more than one million unique visitors.
The other award winner was Budapest-based Atlatszo.hu. Global Voices cited its work in supporting press freedom in Hungary in the wake of the passage of a new, controversial media law. Atlatszo.hu has worked to maintain standards of journalistic integrity and quality investigative journalism. The group, led by Marietta Le, recently fought and won an important fight for the protection of sources in Hungary.
We are proud to support Global Voices and the work they do to recognize and empower citizens’ media around the world.
The web is where we go to find things—that somewhere special to eat tonight, the directions to guide us there and suggestions for that one-of-a-kind present for the birthday girl. Ninety-seven percent of Americans who use the Internet are looking online for local goods and services using their computers and mobile devices.
The growth of our Internet use has naturally helped the ecommerce industry to expand rapidly over the past decade. But the web is also positively impacting brick-and-mortar businesses. According to Boston Consulting Group, American consumers who researched products online last year spent almost $2,000 actually purchasing those products offline. That’s almost $500 billion that went directly to main street retail. All in all, it’s clear that the economic impact of the web is huge; the Internet is where business is done and jobs are created.
We’re proud to be part of such a dynamic industry, and we’re committed to helping make the web work for American businesses. Through our search and advertising programs, businesses find customers, publishers earn money from their content and nonprofits solicit donations and volunteers. These tools are how Google makes money, and they’re how millions of other businesses do, too.
In fact, in 2011, Google’s search and advertising tools helped provide $80 billion of economic activity for 1.8 million advertisers, website publishers and nonprofits across the U.S. You can see the state-by-state breakdown on our economic impact website.
Take one example: King Arthur Flour, a great New England baking company. King Arthur has been a well-known local company since George Washington was President, but has recently used the web to grow into an internationally-renowned baking business. Similarly, Nebraska’s 80 year-old Oriental Trading Company shifted some of its catalog-based marketing to the web, and now sells 80 percent of their toys and novelties online. Or consider New Jersey’s Bornstein Sons home maintenance and repair contracting business, which was founded 70 years ago and recently began to advertise online. They now get one in four of their new customers from the web.
These are just a few examples out of the hundreds of thousands of businesses who are growing and hiring thanks to the web. And Google is committed to getting even more businesses online. Over the past year, we’ve been traveling the country with our Get Your Business Online program, encouraging businesses throughout the U.S. to create free websites and reach more customers. So far, we’ve worked with thousands of businesses to launch their new websites.
It’s a fact that the Internet is creating jobs and helping the American economy grow. And we’re proud to be a part of that process.
In keeping with the theme, I concluded with a specific, short-term proposal: that INFOMED be given immediate access to the ALBA-1 cable, allowing them to provide Spanish language medical and health care education online. (It was similar to the proposal in this post).
I was on vacation and disconnected from the Internet at the time of the conference, so missed the news while it was going on. I just returned, and, in searching online for news of the conference, find only the usual political discussion.
What about the conference content as opposed to the politics -- what actually went on? Were there other proposals? Was there any government participation? Will there be a published proceedings? Were any conclusions or recommendations reached?
In this post, we've collected some highlights from the past five years of our Safe Browsing efforts, aimed at keeping people safe online. See the Security Blog for the full details and more visuals. -Ed.
Five years ago, we launched Safe Browsing, an initiative designed to keep people safe from malicious content online. Our primary goal was to safeguard Google's search results against malware (software capable of taking control of your computer) and phishing (fraudulent websites that entice users to give up their personal information). We also wanted to help educate webmasters on how to protect their own sites.
Malware and phishing are still big problems online, but our Safe Browsing team has labored continuously to adapt to the rising challenges of new threats. We've also developed an infrastructure that automatically detects harmful content around the globe.
Here’s a look at the highlights from our efforts over the past five years:
- We protect 600 million users through built-in protection for Chrome, Firefox and Safari, where we show several million security warnings every day to Internet users. When we detect malware or phishing, we trigger a red warning screen that discourages clicking through to the website. Our free and public Safe Browsing API allows other organizations to keep their users safe by using the data we’ve compiled.
- We find about 9,500 new malicious websites every day and show warnings to protect users. These are either innocent websites that have been compromised by malware authors, or others that are built specifically for malware distribution or phishing. Our detection techniques are highly accurate—we have had only a handful of false positives.
- Approximately 12-14 million Google Search queries per day warn users about current malware threats, and we provide malware warnings for about 300 thousand downloads per day through our download protection service for Chrome.
- We send thousands of notifications daily to webmasters. When webmasters sign up for Webmaster Tools we give them the option to receive warning notices if we find something malicious on their site.
Phishing and malware trends
Online commerce sites are still favorite phishing targets because phishers are motivated by money. Some tried-and-true phishing methods are still used, but attacks are also getting more creative and sophisticated. Attacks are faster, with phishers sometimes remaining online for less than an hour to try to avoid detection. They’re also more geographically dispersed and are getting more targeted.
Malware authors often compromise legitimate sites to deliver content from a malicious attack site or to redirect to an attack site. These attack sites will often deliver "drive-by downloads" to visitors, which launch and run malware programs on their computers without their knowledge. To try to avoid detection, these attack sites adopt several techniques, such as rapidly changing their Internet location with free web hosting services and auto-generated domain names. Although less common than drive-by downloads, we’re also seeing more malware authors bypassing software vulnerabilities altogether and instead employing methods to try to trick users into installing malicious software—for example, fake anti-virus software.
How you can help prevent malware and phishing
Our system is designed to protect users at high volumes, but people still need to take steps to keep their computers safe. Ignoring a malware problem is never a good idea—if one of our warnings pop up, you should never click through to the suspicious site. Webmasters can help protect their visitors by signing up for malware warnings at Google Webmaster Tools. These warnings are free and will help us inform them if we find suspicious code on their sites. Finally, everyone can help make our system better. You can opt-in to send additional data to our team that helps us expand the coverage of Safe Browsing.
Some of our recent work to counter new forms of abuse includes:
- Instantaneous phishing detection and download protection within the Chrome browser
- Chrome extension malware scanning
- Android application protection
(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)
About two years ago, we launched our interactive Transparency Report. We started by disclosing data about government requests. Since then, we’ve been steadily adding new features, like graphs showing traffic patterns and disruptions to Google services from different countries. And just a couple weeks ago, we launched a new section showing the requests we get from copyright holders to remove search results.
The traffic and copyright sections of the Transparency Report are refreshed in near-real-time, but government request data is updated in six-month increments because it’s a people-driven, manual process. Today we’re releasing data showing government requests to remove blog posts or videos or hand over user information made from July to December 2011.
Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.
This is the fifth data set that we’ve released. And just like every other time before, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.
For example, in the second half of last year, Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. In Poland, we received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. We didn’t comply with either of these requests.
In addition to releasing new data today, we’re also adding a feature update which makes it easier to see in aggregate across countries how many removals we performed in response to court orders, as opposed to other types of requests from government agencies. For the six months of data we’re releasing today, we complied with an average of 65% of court orders, as opposed to 47% of more informal requests.
We’ve rounded up some additional interesting facts in the annotations section of the Transparency Report. We realize that the numbers we share can only provide a small window into what’s happening on the Web at large. But we do hope that by being transparent about these government requests, we can continue to contribute to the public debate about how government behaviors are shaping our Web.
(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)
Google believes that policy-making should be grounded in sound analysis of data. We take this to heart -- it’s why we launch tools like the Transparency Report, which shows when and what information is accessible on Google services around the world. Similarly, when governments are transparent with their legislative data, their citizens can be more active participants in the political process.
Last year, for example, the U.S. House of Representatives identified transparency as one of its top priorities, and since then it has taken several steps towards becoming more open. The House now streams and archives video of committee hearings, and it shares draft legislation for public consultation online.
As part of its ongoing effort to promote openness and transparency, the House of Representatives voted for an appropriations bill that directs a task force to examine and expedite the process of disclosing large amounts of legislative data to the public. Even before the bill was passed, Congressional leadership issued a statement on the importance of transparency and requested for the task force to begin its work immediately.
We believe the ability to download bulk legislative data in formats like XML on a regular basis provides tremendous benefits. Website and app developers can use such data to provide up-to-date information on bills. Researchers can use it to perform studies. And politically-curious citizens can use it to follow legislation moving its way through Congress.
We've seen positive transparency efforts throughout the U.S. government. The White House, for one, recently issued a Digital Government Strategy that called for data from offices in the executive branch to be made more easily accessible by application developers.
New information platforms make it easier for the American public to watch and participate in their government, which strengthens the political process as a whole. We applaud Congress for the work that it's done to promote openness and look forward to a future of increased legislative transparency.
Today StopBadware is announcing the formation of an industry partnership to combat bad ads. We’re pleased to be a founding member of the Ads Integrity Alliance, along with AOL, Facebook, Twitter and the IAB.
Since its beginnings in 2006, StopBadware has enabled many websites, service providers and software providers to share real-time information in order to warn users and significantly eliminate malware (such as viruses, phishing sites and malicious downloads) on the web. We believe that the Ads Integrity Alliance can make a similarly important contribution to the goal of identifying and removing bad ads from all corners of the web.
In 2011, Google alone disabled more than 130 million ads and 800,000 advertisers that violated our policies on our own and partners’ sites, such as ads that promote counterfeit goods and malware. You can read more about our efforts to review ads and also see the numbers over time. Other players in the industry also have significant initiatives in this area. But when Google or another website shuts down a bad actor, that scammer often simply tries to advertise elsewhere.
No individual business or law enforcement agency can single-handedly eliminate these bad actors from the entire web. As StopBadware has shown, the best way to tackle common problems across a highly interconnected web, and to move the whole web forward, is for the industry to work together, build best practices and systems, and make information sharing simple.
The alliance led by StopBadware will help the industry fight back together against scammers and bad actors. In particular, it will:
- Develop and share definitions, industry policy recommendations and best practices
- Serve as a platform for sharing information about bad actors
- Share relevant trends with policymakers and law enforcement agencies
(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)
Cross-posted from the Google Green Blog.
This month, heads of state, NGOs, scientists and business leaders from around the world will meet to discuss how best to reduce poverty, advance social equity and better protect the environment at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20.
As a company that believes deeply in sustainability, we wouldn’t miss this for the world. So from June 13 - 22, a group of Googlers from our Google Earth Outreach and Google Earth Engine teams will be joining many of our partners, including Chief Almir Surui, The Jane Goodall Institute, Imazon, Aliança de Terra, Amazon Sustainable Foundation and others to show how technology can support the conference’s core themes.
We’ll be posting updates on the Google Green Blog from the conference throughout the week, but we thought we’d offer a quick preview of how we’ll be participating:
- Wednesday, June 13th - Friday, June 22nd: We invite all conference attendees to visit us at our booth in the Rio State Government Pavilion at Athletes’ Park. You’ll be able to tour the Earth and beyond in our Liquid Galaxy, an immersive Google Earth experience, and explore some of the work our partners have created using Google tools.
- Friday, June 15th: Ronaldo Barreto, Strategic Partner Manager for Latin America, will participate in Megacities Forum 2012, at a roundtable on “Future Cities and the Use of New Transport Technologies.” Ronaldo will show how tools such as Google Maps, Google Transit and Google Street View are being used to modernize Rio de Janeiro’s transportation infrastructure.
- Friday, June 15th: Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager for Google Earth Engine and Google Earth Outreach, will speak at “No Roads to a Green Economy: Mapping Earth´s roadless areas and their services,” a discussion at the European Union Pavilion about the need to promote roadless areas as a means to conserve biodiversity and secure the rights of indigenous people.
- Saturday, June 16th: Rebecca Moore will be joining Chief Almir Surui at the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum to share the latest news regarding our ongoing partnership with the Surui tribe.
- Sunday, June 17th: We’ll be holding an SD-Learning event, “From the Ground to the Cloud: New Tools for Sustainable Development,” which will be introduced by Brazilian Senator Eduardo Braga and will feature a presentation from Imazon on their work to create a deforestation monitoring system for Brazil, powered by Google Earth Engine. (Registration has closed for this event.)
- Monday, June 18th: All visitors to Rio+20 are welcome to join our Side Event, "Tools for Data Collection and Mapping: the Ground to the Cloud Story" at the Arena de Barra. We’ll be hearing from a number of partners about they work they’re doing with Google tools. Among others, the Jane Goodall Institute and Woods Hole Research Center will share their work estimating forest biomass over Tanzania with Google Earth Engine, and Aliança da Terra will talk about how their use of Open Data Kit and Google Maps Engine has transformed their operations.
- Tuesday, June 19th: we’ll be at the U.S. Government Pavilion to participate in panel discussions and demonstrations of our work with the Governor’s Forest and Climate Taskforce.
I will be travelling and unable to follow the event, but you can read about it here.
Search is about helping people find the right answers to their questions when and where they need them. We work hard every day to figure out the most useful results for our users, and we’re working to create new and better ways to answer your questions. We know that if we don’t give users the best results, people can and will switch to another search engine.
And while we’re always happy to have feedback about how we can improve, it’s more useful if that feedback is based on facts. In today’s Wall Street Journal, the CEO of comparison shopping site Nextag makes several claims that are wrong -- or suggests that Google start doing things that we already do. Let me set the record straight:
Claim: “Most people believe that when they type "convection microwave oven" or "biking shorts" into Google, they will receive a list of the most relevant sites. Not true. That's how Google used to work. Now, when someone searches for these items, the most prominent results are displayed because companies paid Google for that privilege.”
Fact: Let me be very clear: our unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment. Our algorithms rank results based only on what the most relevant answers are for users -- which might be a direct answer or a competitor’s website. Our ads and commercial experiences are clearly labeled and distinct from the unpaid results, and we recently announced new improvements to labeling of shopping results. This is in contrast to most comparison shopping sites, which receive payment from merchants but often don’t clearly label search results as being influenced by payment.
Claim: “It's easy to see when Google makes changes to its algorithms that effectively punish its competitors, including us.”
Fact: As we’ve said many times before, we built search to help users, not websites. We don’t make changes to our algorithms to hurt competitors. We make more than 500 changes a year (each one scientifically evaluated) in order to deliver the most useful results for our users - and we now publish a monthly list of algorithm improvements. Every one of those changes moves some websites up and some sites down in the rankings, but the most important thing is that users are happy with the results.
Claim: “[Google] has used its position to bend the rules to help maintain its online supremacy, including the use of sophisticated algorithms weighted in favor of its own products and services at the expense of search results that are truly most relevant.”
Fact: Our algorithms are always designed to give users the most relevant results -- and sometimes the best result isn’t a website, but a map, a weather forecast, a fact, a quick answer, or specialized image, shopping, flight, or movie results. And that’s not just Google; Bing, Yahoo and other search engines do the same thing.
Claim: “Google should provide consumers with access to the unbiased search results it was once known for—regardless of which company or organization owns the service. It should also allow users to reduce the number of ads shown or incorporate a user's preferred services in search results.
Fact: All major search engines -- including Bing and Yahoo -- long ago evolved beyond the simple “ten blue links,” and we believe that our users are often best served by providing better answers directly in search results. And if users don’t like our results, they can try Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, or even Google Minus Google.
Claim: “Google should grant all companies equal access to advertising opportunities regardless of whether they are considered a competitor.”
Fact: We don’t prohibit competitors from advertising on Google -- in fact, many of our largest advertisers are also competitors. Our auction-based advertising system, which takes into account relevance and bids, is designed to provide a level playing field on which placement is not automatically awarded to the highest bidder.
Claim: “In addition, Google often uses its prime real estate to promote its own (often less relevant and inferior) products and services...”
Fact: It’s understandable that every website believes that it is the best, and wants to rank at the top of Google results. The great thing about the openness of the Internet is that if users don’t find our results relevant and useful, they can easily navigate to Nextag, Amazon, Yelp, Bing or any other website.
There has never been as much choice online as there is today. Over the last few years, we’ve faced competition from new players, including social networks, mobile apps, and specialty search sites. All that competition is a great thing for consumers, it gives you more choices and makes us work hard to deliver you even more relevant answers, day after day.
In arguing for the Internet, Lage spoke of its economic value, comparing the cost of a telex to that of an email. He was correct, but the cost to the economy may not have been as important as the cost to the education system.
This point was brought home a year ago by Greg Sowa, a medical student from the US, who is studying in Cuba. Sowa described Cuban student access in a blog post:
Most students use their limited internet access at the school (forty minutes a week for each student, depending if you can talk your way in for some extra time) for communication. We furiously upload email attachments of letters home while copying and pasting messages from our inbox into microsoft word documents to read later, off the clock.Compare that to a US medical student who has near-instant access to over 21 million citations for biomedical literature from PubMed, Web sites of professional societies, the National Institutes of Health, professional social networking, Google and Google Scholar, etc.
The ALBA-1 cable could help close this gap.
We have been discussing the cable lately, and it appears that it is not yet providing Internet connectivity to Cubans, but it is being tested and used used to operate the Venezuelan ID system. Writers like Yoani Sanchez attribute the lack of cable connectivity to political fear, and they may be correct, but, even if the government wanted wide-spread access, the domestic infrastructure to support it is not in place and Cuba cannot afford it. The cable may be operating, but there is little modern "middle mile" and "last mile" infrastructure.
Since Cuba cannot afford general high-speed connectivity, they must use the cable selectively, and higher education would be a good place to begin. Students like Greg Sowa would obviously benefit, but so would faculty. Furthermore, education could be a source of revenue.
There is considerable diversity among the offerings and the student goals, but, the majority of current offerings are in English, leaving an opportunity for Spanish language material. Cuba could be in a good position to satisfy that need. For example, Cuba has considerable medical expertise. If they upgraded the Infomed network and connected it to the cable, they could offer medical education in Spanish and tailored to the needs of Latin America and the Caribbean.
My own university provides an example of the sort of thing that could be done. We offer a state-wide nursing program online. The program is successful and has been running for several years. Cuba could be in a postion to do something similar (perhaps even in collaboration with our nursing program).
Computer science is another promising area. The most visible and largest online classes to date have been in computer science. Elite schools like Stanford, MIT and the Indian Institutes of Technology are going online. Cuba has a specialized University of Informatics Science (UCI). Could UCI not do the same?
Cuba cannot afford to connect everyone on the island, and would not want to if they could. This sort of focus -- where Cuban expertise is applied toward a postive social goal that also generates revenue -- may be a way to bootstrap Cuba's entry into the Internet era.
Writing in The Havana Times, Alfredo Fernandez, a Cuban who is now in Ecuador, asks "why are there no Cuban academic videos on the Internet?" (http://bit.ly/1bcXvgb)
He goes on to say:
After a simple study based on everyday observations, I am quite surprised that, in the six months I have been searching for materials on YouTube – about subjects as broad-ranging as literature, philosophy, journalism, film and many others – I have not once come upon a single Cuban video.
This morning Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee on Internet Governance and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The hearing will examine international proposals to regulate the Internet; specifically the ITU’s recent efforts to increase its authority over Internet governance. The ITU is an agency of the United Nations which has focused on setting international standards and policies for telephone services and radio frequencies. Expanding their authority into Internet governance has the potential to restrict and endanger the future of the open Internet.
Vint’s testimony emphasizes the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance and technical management. He also encourages the U.S. Government—in partnership with like-minded countries and their citizens—to engage in the ITU process to ensure transparency, openness and innovation and protect free expression.
You can read his written testimony and watch the webcast of the hearing starting at 10:15 AM Eastern.
Security online is a shared responsibility and we take our role very seriously. We work hard to proactively identify security threats, protect our users and their personal information, and help make the Internet a safer place.
So when we realized that some of our users’ computers or routers were infected with malware called DNSChanger—and that we could tell which of our users were infected—we notified them and directed them to the tools they needed to clean their computer and ensure connectivity. We’ve already notified half a million individuals about DNSChanger infections on their devices.
While we can’t detect most kinds of malware, sometimes we’re able to use data to discover unusual patterns. For example, irregular activity in our search traffic could indicate activity from a botnet or denial of service attack, and we take steps to notify the appropriate authorities and our users. This isn’t the first time that we’ve been able to detect malware and alert our users—we reached a million users last summer during a similar malware notification.
We are constantly developing new security technologies and contributing research and open source tools to the security industry. We’ve provided SSL encryption by default for Gmail accounts, notified users about suspicious activity or tampering with their Google accounts, created tools to detect and act upon potentially dangerous sites in our search index, help browser and web developers to protect their users from malicious links with the freely available Safebrowsing API, and delivered automatic security updates to the Chrome browser.
We’re also collaborating with the Industry Botnet Group, a group of ISPs, security groups, industry leaders, and law enforcement entities that share expertise and aggregate resources for countering botnets. The U.S. Department of Commerce recently highlighted the success of this initiative in bringing together private sector actors to address the issue of botnets. And the White House held an event today applauding the success of industry partnerships in addressing these issues— recognizing like many in Congress that transparency and information sharing are critical to addressing security risks on the Internet. Google is also continuing to address botnet security concerns through the Federal Communications Commission’s Communications, Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC), which includes participants from both the public and private sectors.
I have also heard an unconfirmed report that the cable is operational and being used in some Venezuelan government offices to access databases they have stored in Cuba. That could be a pilot test for the ALBA-1 link.
That would be consistent with the Renesys data we just posted (http://laredcubana.blogspot.com/2012/05/hard-data-on-idle-alba-1-undersea-cable.html), but it would not be Internet connectivity.
Venezuela storing their data in Cuba reminds me of the International Center for Scientific and Technical Information in Moscow (http://www.icsti.su/portal/eng/index.php). During the pre-Internet days, they provided centralized database access for all of the communist nations. Today they are on the Internet, serving a different group of nations.
I just came across this 2011 article may have been the source of the rumor that early tests of the undersea cable were in support of database applications Cuba runs for the Venezuelan government. The article asserts that Albet Engineering and Systems, Inc. runs the citizen ID application for the government of Venezuela, raising concern of election fraud and other secret manipulation.
It also draws attention to the link between Albet and the University of Information Sciences (UCI). Albet owns the commercial rights to all products and services offered by the UCI -- they seem to be the marketing arm for the applications that UCI students and faculty develop. (We discussed UCI in some detail in a 2011 report. They emphasize practical work on projects -- making students a source of low-cost labor for Albet).
I just found this old article -- has there been more on this story or other Albet/UCI projects?