Testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives on Internet Governance

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.

Making the Internet Safer for Everyone

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.

For more tips on how to stay safe online, see our security advice pages and visit the Google Online Security blog for updates on how we’re working to protect our users and the Internet.

Limited pilot testing of the ALBA-1 cable?

Muchas Gracias sent us a link to an article in which Jorge Arreaza, Venezuelan minister of Science and Technology says the cable is operational, but not saying what it was being used for (http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/11252-venezuela-asegura-que-el-cable-de-internet-esta-absolutamente-operativo).

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.


Update 7/17/2013

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?

The fight against scam ads—by the numbers

Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog

This is the second in a series of posts that will provide greater transparency about how we make our ads safer by detecting and removing scam ads. -Ed.

Last month, I shared an overview of the technology Google has built to prevent bad ads from showing on Google and our partner sites, including our efforts to review accounts, sites and ads. To illustrate the scale of this challenge, today I’d like to provide some metrics that give greater insight into the scale of the problem we’re combating.

Bad ads have a disproportionately negative effect on our users; even a single bad ad slipping through our defenses is one too many. That’s why we’re constantly working to improve our systems and utilize new techniques to prevent bad ads from appearing on Google and our partner sites. In fact, billions of ads are submitted every year for a wide variety of products. We have a set of ads policies that cover a huge array of areas in more than 40 different languages. For example, because we aim to show safe, truthful and accurate ads to our users, we don’t allow ads for misleading claims, ad spam or malware.

Ads that are in violation of our ads policies aren’t allowed to be shown on Google and our AdSense partner sites. For many repeat offenders, we ban not just ads but also advertisers who seek to abuse our advertising system to take advantage of people. In the case of ads that are promoting counterfeit goods, we typically ban the advertiser after only one violation. Here are some metrics that give some insight into the scale of the impact we have had over time, showing the numbers of actions we’ve taken against advertiser accounts, sites and ads. You can see that the numbers are growing—and growing faster over time.

Year Advertiser Accounts Suspended for Terms of Service and Advertising PoliciesSites Rejected for Site PolicyAds Disapproved
2011 824K610K134M
2010 248K398K56.7M
2009 68.5K305K42.5M
2008 18.1K167K25.3M

We find that there are relatively few malicious players, who make multiple attempts to bypass our defenses to defraud users. As we get better and faster at catching these advertisers, they redouble their efforts and create more accounts at an even faster rate.

Even in this ever-escalating arms race, our efforts are working. One method we use to test the success of our efforts is to ask human raters to tell us how we’re doing. These human raters review a set of sites that are advertised on Google. We use a large set of sites in order to get an accurate statistical reading of our efforts. We also weight the sites in our statistical sample based on the number of times a particular site was displayed so that if a particular site is shown more often, it’s more likely to be in our sample set. By using human raters, we can calibrate our automated systems and ensure that we’re improving our efforts over time. In 2011, we reduced the percentage of bad ads by more than 50 percent compared with 2010. That means the proportion of bad ads that are showing on Google was halved in just a year.

Google’s long-term success is based on people trusting our products. We want to make sure that the ads on Google are safe and trustworthy, and we’re not satisfied until we do.

Software downloads in Syria

Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog

Free expression is a fundamental human right and a core value of our company—but sometimes there are limits to where we can make our products and services available. U.S. export controls and sanctions programs, for example, prohibit us from offering certain software downloads in some countries.

The fine details of these restrictions evolve over time, and we’re always exploring how we can better offer tools for people to access and share information. For example, last year we were able to make some of our products available for download in Iran. And today we’re pleased to make Google Earth, Picasa and Chrome available for download in Syria.

As a U.S. company, we remain committed to full compliance with U.S. export controls and sanctions. We remain equally committed to continue exploring how we can help more people around the globe use technology to communicate, find and create information.

Hard data on the idle ALBA-1 undersea cable

I received an email today from Doug Madory of Renesys, a company that monitors the dynamic state of the global Internet.

Madory wrote that there is no evidence of a submarine cable in use in Cuba in 2012. He said that latencies to Cuba are very stable and clearly satellite (>480 ms).  He attached the following visualizations (click to enlarge):

The numbers in the figure legends indicate the connecting autonomous networks -- CubaData (11960) is the state telecom of Cuba, and they have three satellite providers Tata (6453), Intelsat (22351) and NewCom (32034).

Renesys is "The Internet Intelligence Authority" -- they constantly monitor the state of the global Internet. You may have seen their reports of network outages when nations went off line during the Arab Spring, for example, this Syrian episode. You can get a sense of what they do by following their blog and Internet events bulletin.

Google Acquires Motorola Mobility

Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog

The phones in our pockets have become supercomputers that are changing the way we live. It’s now possible to do things we used to think were magic, or only possible on Star Trek--like get directions right from where we are standing; watch a video on YouTube; or take a picture and share the moment instantly with friends.

It’s why I’m excited to announce today that our Motorola Mobility deal has closed. Motorola is a great American tech company that has driven the mobile revolution, with a track record of over 80 years of innovation, including the creation of the first cell phone. We all remember Motorola’s StarTAC, which at the time seemed tiny and showed the real potential of these devices. And as a company who made a big, early bet on Android, Motorola has become an incredibly valuable partner to Google.

Sanjay Jha, who was responsible for building the company and placing that big bet on Android, has stepped down as CEO. I would like to thank him for his efforts and am tremendously pleased that he will be working to ensure a smooth transition as long-time Googler Dennis Woodside takes over as CEO of Motorola Mobility.

I’ve known Dennis for nearly a decade, and he’s been phenomenal at building teams and delivering on some of Google’s biggest bets. One of his first jobs at Google was to put on his backpack and build our businesses across the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. More recently he helped increase our revenue in the U.S. from $10.8 billion to $17.5 billion in under three years as President of the Americas region. Dennis has always been a committed partner to our customers and I know he will be an outstanding leader of Motorola. As an Ironman triathlete, he’s got plenty of energy for the journey ahead--and he’s already off to great start with some very strong new hires for the Motorola team.

It’s a well known fact that people tend to overestimate the impact technology will have in the short term, but underestimate its significance in the longer term. Many users coming online today may never use a desktop machine, and the impact of that transition will be profound--as will the ability to just tap and pay with your phone. That’s why it’s a great time to be in the mobile business, and why I’m confident Dennis and the team at Motorola will be creating the next generation of mobile devices that will improve lives for years to come.

What happened to the ALBA-1 undersea cable?

(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)
Associated Press reporter Andrea Rodgriguez, @ARodriguezAP, has published an article stating that "mystery shrouds the fate" of the ALBA-1 undersea cable linking Venezuela and Cuba.

Cuban officials promised that the cable would in use last fall, but Rodriguez finds no evidence that it is use in government offices or elsewhere.  She interviewed a dozen employees of public institutions who said they have seen no noticeable improvement in their work connections.  Some said that download speeds have even gotten a little slower.  She also made "multiple attempts to get Cuban and Venezuelan government officials to comment," but was unsuccessful.

She is a reporter who is on the ground in Cuba and unable to find evidence of the deployment or application of the cable.

How might we explain this?  I can think of three hypotheses:
  1. There have been claims of corruption, and some of the peple Rodgriguez interviewed corroborate that assertion.
  2. I have suggested earlier that a fast undersea cable would be a strong link in a weak (or nonexistent) chain if Cuba's domestic Internet infrastructure were not upgraded to utilize it.  Skilled networking technicians would also be needed.  Perhaps capital to upgrade the domestic network is not available.
  3. The Arab Spring may have frightened the government.   Raúl Castro opposed the Internet when Cuba connected in the mid-1990s.  In October 1997 he stated that "Glasnost, which undermined the USSR and other socialist countries, consisted of handing over the mass media, one by one, to the enemies of socialism." Perhaps he fears an Internet supported "Cuban Spring."
Or, maybe the answer is none of the above -- or all of the above.  Whatever the reason, it seems that a reported 70 million dollar investment is gathering barnacles and little more.

Is Ms. Rodgriguez wrong?  Does anyone have evidence of the cable being in operation?  I would love to hear about it and, even better, run a few pings and traceroutes.

Internet at Liberty 2012 Conference: Join the discussion

Next week, 300+ Internet activists, policy makers, academics and NGO leaders from more than 30 countries will gather in Washington, D.C. to discuss the future of free speech online. The event is called Internet at Liberty 2012, and we want you to join the discussion.

The future of free expression is uncertain. According to the Open Net Initiative, more than 620 million Internet users—31% of the world’s total Internet users—live in countries where there is substantial or pervasive filtering of online content. And when free expression is in jeopardy, so are reporters; as the Committee to Protect Journalists found, nearly half of all the writers, editors, and photojournalists imprisoned around the world are online journalists.

Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes are the worst offenders, but democracies around the world are also questioning whether the Internet requires monitoring and supervision. 2012 is a crucial year. As governments are trying to draw the right lines, we are bringing the most challenging and important debates to you via Internet at Liberty 2012.

Join us on May 23 and May 24 by watching our livestream at YouTube.com/citizentube, and feel free to Tweet your questions and comments (@InternetLiberty). If you are in the DC area, consider joining us at the event live. You can register here. Space is limited, but this is a crucial issue and we want you to participate.

For more information, check out our detailed schedule of events.

Hello from Tunisia

Cross-posted from the Google European Public Policy Blog

It was a perfect way to celebrate the Arab Spring. UNESCO last week marked its World Press Day in Tunisia, the country that led the rush for freedom in the Arab world. We sponsored the event, hosting Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki who met with Daniel Calingaert, Freedom House’s Vice President in Washington DC via an On Air Hangout on UNESCO’s Google+ page. We’ll post the Hangout as soon as it becomes available.

World Press Day marks an appropriate moment to review our progress in the Middle East and North Africa. We’re investing and digging deep roots. Over the past year, we have doubled our regional workforce. We have hosted g|days reaching an estimated 12,000 entrepreneurs and developers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Our Google Media Academy has trained nearly 2,000 journalists.

Google products are going Arabic. Only about three percent of the web now is in Arabic, while more than 10 percent of the world’s web population speaks it as a mother tongue. In order to encourage more local content, we have launched eight local YouTube domains and 11 local maps domains. An Egyptian who searches YouTube is no longer directed to Western videos but instead is able to access local content. We have introduced Arabic versions of Voice Search, driving directions for Maps, and Google+.

Many magic moments have occurred in the past year. We hosted celebrity high profile hangouts with entertainer Myriam Fares and the Arab world’s biggest pop star, Amr Diab. We also launched the Official Google Arabia Google+ page.

Earlier this month, two Qatar museums, Museum of Islamic Art and Mathaf, joined the Google Art Project. In Egypt, the first episode of "Inside Google" aired on Al Hayat Al Youm, Egypt's number one Prime Time TV show. Egypt’s very own Amr Mohamed became a global finalist in the YouTube Space Lab. And next week we will crown a national winner of the Ebda2 with Google competition to provide local entrepreneurs seed capital to start their own business kickstarting the internet ecosystem in Egypt to flourish.

This Arabization drive is producing impressive results. Google searches are up by 25 percent year on year in the region. Some 167 million YouTube videos are viewed each day in the Middle East and Africa—the second highest number in the world, behind the U.S. and ahead of Brazil. These daily views represent 112 percent increase since last October—more than double the views in just one year. An hour's worth of YouTube videos is uploaded each minute in the Middle East and North Africa. Since the launch of our local map domains, we have seen 50 percent growth in maps usage throughout the region.

Our goal is clear—to become part of the local landscape, giving people around the Middle East and North Africa access to information, preferably in their own language. For us, our contribution to UNESCO’s World Press Day represents yet another strong step towards this goal.