Google welcomes broad industry agreement on advertising and privacy

There’s been a lot of debate over the last few years about personalization on the web. We believe that tailoring your web experience -- for example by showing you more relevant, interest-based ads, or making it easy to recommend stuff you like to friends -- is a good thing. We also believe that the best way to protect your privacy is to enable you to exercise choice through meaningful product controls. That said, given the number of different browsers and products available online today -- many of which have different privacy controls -- we recognize that it can get confusing.

So we’re pleased to sign up to today’s industry-wide agreement (you can read the details here) -- put together by the White House, the Federal Trade Commission and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), which represents over 90 percent of all online advertising in the U.S -- to create a simpler, more unified approach to privacy on the web. Under this agreement, users will be able to exercise choice under the DAA Principles by setting what has been called a “Do Not Track” header straight from their browser. The DAA Principles, and therefore the header, cover some aspects of tailored advertising. But, for example, if users have requested personalization (such as by signing up for particular services) or visit websites that use “first party” cookies to personalize the overall experience (for example a news website recommending articles to its readers, or a video site remembering your volume preferences), then browsers will not break that experience. In addition, today’s agreement supports continued innovation and competition on the web, as well as important, basic web functionality -- such as malware, spam and fraud detection.

We look forward to working with our industry partners, the White House, the FTC, the DAA and all the major browsers including Google Chrome, to adopt a broadly consistent approach to these controls -- rather than the situation today where every browser sets its own defaults, policies, and exceptions. In particular, we are pleased that today’s agreement will ensure that users are given an explicit choice, and be fully informed of the available options.

This agreement will not solve all the privacy issues users face on the web today. However, it represents a meaningful step forward in privacy controls for users. We look forward to making this happen.

Conference papers online

Papers and proceedings from the 21st annual meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) are now available online. The papers cover a wide range of social, political and economic topics.

Two of special interest to this group are Ted Henken's A Bloggers' Polemic: Debating Independent Cuban Blogger Projects in a Polarized Political Context and my paper The Past, Present and Future of the Internet in Cuba.

This is an interesting, rigorous conference. The theme of next year's conference is "Where is Cuba Going?" and the call for papers is available on the ASCE Web site.

Trading over the Internet

In the Stone Age, as humans struggled to survive and build, they traded for food and tools. In the Age of Discovery, as explorers traversed the seas, they traded spices. And now in the Information Age, as the Internet becomes an increasingly robust business platform, all kinds of goods and services are traded online every day.

Thanks to the Web, trade has never been easier. Companies large and small can have easy access to a global marketplace. And in that way, the free flow of information without restriction across the Internet is contributing to growing economies across the world.

Fortunately, several countries and entities have recognized the critical role that open information flows play in trade and economic growth. Just a few weeks ago, the United States and Japan signed new information and communications technology principles which support open government and the free flow of information across national borders. That agreement comes on the heels of similar principles signed by the U.S. and EU and members of the U.S. business community last year.

We hope that more governments and industries will recognize the role that the free flow of information plays in the global economy. A consistent and transparent framework for cross-border flows of goods, services and information will help individuals and businesses around the world.

Educating Across the Globe for Safer Internet Day

As more of our life happens online, Internet skills are crucial to living responsibly. So what are the skills needed to navigate today’s Internet society? To answer this question and help adapt to digital society, parents and educators are working together to find new ways to teach themselves, their families, and their communities about important topics like identity protection, online security, and digital citizenship.

Today, on Safer Internet Day, we are proud to partner with Common Sense Media, ConnectSafely, the National Consumers League, on launching a new digital literacy portal called ThinkB4U. ThinkB4U combines “choose-your-own-adventure” style videos with expert advice from leading online safety NGOs and the Federal Trade Commission’s OnGuard Online resources.

ThinkB4U is just one example of how seriously we take the challenge of increasing safety on the web. Here are a few examples of Google’s involvement across the globe, along with inspiring efforts from our partners, NGOs, government stakeholders, and researchers from Asia-Pacific to Europe:

Awareness Campaigns
  • Australia: The Google Australia team is raising awareness of Google and YouTube safety tools by placing advertisements in newspapers and online.
  • Russia: In collaboration with Net Literacy we are meeting with over 200 Russian journalism students to engage them in a broader discussion on digital literacy, and what they can personally do in their schools and local communities. Additionally, we are hosting a series of international expert panels at the Safer Internet Forum
Research and Technical Solutions
  • UK: We are funding research by Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre (YAW-CRC) on how parents can practice online safety (part 1 and part 2).
  • France: We are supporting great work by e-Enfance on Net Ecoute Chrome extension an extension that allows for quick access to online discussions with a helpline counselor.
  • Italy: Italian child advocacy organization Telefono Azzurro has decided to share a Google Search Appliance that we had previously donated with all of the members of Missing Children Europe (MCE)—the federation of national NGOs responsible for the European 116.000 phone hotline. We hope the use of our GSA will help streamline processes among the members of MCE in combating child exploitation and recovering missing children throughout Europe.
  • Israel: Following our successful launch of the Web-Rangers program, Israel’s Ministry of Education has invited these talented online safety ambassadors to present their projects all across Israel and on YouTube.
  • Hong Kong: We are working with Weborganic, an organization tasked by the government to bridge the digital divide in schools, on an online safety exhibition for participating students and teachers.
  • Indonesia: We are organizing a series of trainings for NGOs, youth and community leaders, educators, and officials in the Ministry of Communications.
  • Germany: Wieland Holfelder, Google Engineering Director, is keynoting a session on safe Internet use at the Safer Internet Event in Germany, organized by Bitkom and the Ministry of Consumer Protection (BMELV).
  • Portugal: We’re launching the Google Family Safety Center in Portugal with an event in Lisbon, chaired by the President of the National Commission for Children's Protection and Young at Risk, Mr. Armando Leandro.
There is still much to be done to achieve high levels of digital literacy for everyone. We hope that these projects and events will boost advocacy for online safety education, the importance of which is invaluable in a deeply connected world.

Check out the EU Public Policy Blog for more Safer Internet Day information!

Busting myths about our approach to privacy

A number of myths are being spread about Google’s approach to privacy. We just wanted to give you the facts.
  • Myth:In 2011, Google made $36 billion selling information about users like you. [Fairsearch Ad - See this piece for more]
  • Fact: Google does not sell, trade or rent personally identifiable user information. Advertisers can run ads on Google that are matched to search keywords, or use our services to show ads based on anonymous data, such as your location or the websites you’ve visited.
  • Myth: Google’s Privacy Policy changes make it harder for users to control their personal information. [Microsoft]
  • Fact: Our privacy controls have not changed. Period. Our users can: edit and delete their search history; edit and delete their YouTube viewing history; use many of our services signed in or out; use Google Dashboard and our Ads Preferences Manager to see what data we collect and manage the way it is used; and take advantage of our data liberation efforts if they want to remove information from our services.
  • Myth: Google is changing our Privacy Policy to make the data we collect more valuable to advertisers. [Microsoft]
  • Fact: The vast majority of the product personalization Google does is unrelated to ads—it’s about making our services better for users. Today a signed-in user can instantly add an appointment to their Calendar when a message in Gmail looks like it’s about a meeting, or read Google Docs within their email.

  • Myth: Google reads your email. [Microsoft]
  • Fact: No one reads your email but you. Like most major email providers, our computers scan messages to get rid of spam and malware, as well as show ads that are relevant to you.
  • Myth: Google’s Privacy Policy changes jeopardize government information in Google Apps. []
  • Fact: Our new Privacy Policy does not change our contractual agreements, which have always superseded Google’s Privacy Policy for enterprise customers.
  • Myth: Microsoft’s approach to privacy is better than Google’s. [Microsoft]
  • Fact: We don’t make judgments about other people’s policies or controls. But our industry-leading Privacy Dashboard, Ads Preferences Manager and data liberation efforts enable you to understand and control the information we collect and how we use it—and we’ve simplified our privacy policy to make it easier to understand. Microsoft has no data liberation effort or Dashboard-like hub for users. Their privacy policy states that “information collected through one Microsoft service may be combined with information obtained through other Microsoft services.”
We’ve always believed the facts should inform our marketing—and that it’s best to focus on our users rather than negative attacks on other companies. Onwards!