Author Archives: Kent Walker

The European Commission decision on online shopping: the other side of the story

When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily. And advertisers want to promote those same products. That's why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.

We believe the European Commission’s online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches.

We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay.

Google shopping screengrab

When the Commission asks why some comparison websites have not done as well as others, we think it should consider the many sites that have grown in this period--including platforms like Amazon and eBay. With its comparison tools, reviews, millions of retailers, and vast range of products from sneakers to groceries, Amazon is a formidable competitor and has become the first port of call for product searches.  And as Amazon has grown, it’s natural that some comparison services have proven less popular than others. We compete with Amazon and other sites for shopping-related searches by showing ever more useful product information.

When you use Google to search for products, we try to give you what you’re looking for. Our ability to do that well isn’t favoring ourselves, or any particular site or seller--it’s the result of hard work and constant innovation, based on user feedback.

Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case.

Digital security and due process: A new legal framework for the cloud era

Editor’s note: This is an abbreviated version of a speech Kent delivered today at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

For as long as we’ve had legal systems, prosecutors and police have needed to gather evidence. And for each new advance in communications, law enforcement has adapted. With the advent of the post office, police got warrants to search letters and packages. With the arrival of telephones, police served subpoenas for the call logs of suspects. Digital communications have now gone well beyond the Postal Service and Ma Bell. But the laws that govern evidence-gathering on the internet were written before the Information Revolution, and are now both hindering the flow of information to law enforcement and jeopardizing user privacy as a result.

These rules are due for a fundamental realignment in light of the rapid growth of technology that relies on the cloud, the very real security threats that face people and communities, and the expectations of privacy that internet users have in their communications.

Today, we’re proposing a new framework that allows countries that commit to baseline privacy, human rights, and due process principles to gather evidence more quickly and efficiently. We believe these reforms would not only help law enforcement conduct more effective investigations but also encourage countries to improve and align on privacy and due process standards. Further, reducing the amount of time countries have to wait to gather evidence means would reduce the pressure to pursue more problematic ways of trying to gather data.

Current laws hinder law enforcement and user privacy

The U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) governs requests for content from law enforcement. Under ECPA, foreign countries largely have to rely on diplomatic mechanisms such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) to obtain content that is held by a company in the United States. The last data we’ve seen suggests that the average wait to receive content through the MLAT process is 10 months, far too long for most criminal cases. While law enforcement waits for this data, crimes could remain unsolved or a trial might happen missing key evidence.

The current legal framework poses a threat to users’ privacy as well. Faced with the extended delays under the MLAT process, some countries are now asserting that their laws apply to companies and individuals outside of their borders. Countries asserting extraterritorial authority potentially put companies in an untenable situation where we risk violating either the law of the requesting country or the law of the country where we are headquartered.

We are also seeing various proposals to require companies to store data within local borders as a means to gain easier access. There are a host of problems with this: small, one-off data centers are easier targets for attackers and jeopardize data security and privacy. Further, requiring businesses to build these data-centers will raise the costs for cloud services, erecting significant barriers for smaller companies.

The legal ambiguity concerning cross-border law enforcement requests has also created complications for law enforcement in the United States. Last year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was asked to determine the reach of ECPA search warrants issued under the now out-of-date statute. The Court ruled that under existing law, an ECPA search warrant cannot be used to compel service providers to disclose user data that is stored outside of the U.S. But even those judges agreed that ECPA should be updated by Congress to reflect the new reality of today’s global networks.

Principles for reform

Our proposal to address these challenges for domestic and international law enforcement, for companies, and for users has two core principles:

First, countries that honor baseline principles of privacy, human rights, and due process should be able to make direct requests to service providers for user data that pertains to serious crimes that happen within their borders and users who are within their jurisdiction.  

While the U.S. cannot solve the problem on its own, and many countries have blocking regulations, policy reform in the US is a necessary first step. We’ve been pleased to see serious debate around ways to update digital evidence laws in Washington on this issue.

In May, the U.S. Department of Justice presented legislation that would amend ECPA and  authorize U.S. providers to disclose records and communications content to foreign governments that adhere to baseline due process, human rights, and privacy standards. This legislation would be the critical starting point for the new framework of direct requests.

ECPA should also be updated to address what data is available using an ECPA search warrant in a way that serves broader public policy objectives. Law enforcement requests for digital evidence should be based on the location and nationality of users, not the location of data. A key component of this reform is the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA), which Google supports. ICPA provides a unique opportunity for Congress to update laws governing digital evidence both for investigations in the U.S. and abroad. While refinements to ICPA may be necessary, we believe the principles upon which ICPA is based are sound.

Second, provided that countries can meet baseline standards and the U.S. amends ECPA, the next step would be for the United States and foreign governments to sign new agreements that could provide an alternative to the MLAT process. The bilateral agreements that could be authorized by the legislation put forward by the Department of Justice provide a promising avenue to improve global privacy standards and create a pathway for foreign governments to obtain digital evidence for investigations.

We’re ready to do our part

We know that this will be an involved process. It’ll require action here in Washington and in capitals around the world. However, we can’t accept the complexity of action as a reason for inaction in addressing an important and growing problem.

Our proposal asks for a lot of movement from governments. But we recognize our role as well. Google is ready to work with legislators, regulators, civil society, academics, and other companies to progress these proposals and make sure that we get this right. And I look forward to conversations that we’ll have in Washington, D.C. and beyond in the months to come.

Digital security and due process: A new legal framework for the cloud era

Editor’s note: This is an abbreviated version of a speech Kent delivered today at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

For as long as we’ve had legal systems, prosecutors and police have needed to gather evidence. And for each new advance in communications, law enforcement has adapted. With the advent of the post office, police got warrants to search letters and packages. With the arrival of telephones, police served subpoenas for the call logs of suspects. Digital communications have now gone well beyond the Postal Service and Ma Bell. But the laws that govern evidence-gathering on the internet were written before the Information Revolution, and are now both hindering the flow of information to law enforcement and jeopardizing user privacy as a result.

These rules are due for a fundamental realignment in light of the rapid growth of technology that relies on the cloud, the very real security threats that face people and communities, and the expectations of privacy that internet users have in their communications.

Today, we’re proposing a new framework that allows countries that commit to baseline privacy, human rights, and due process principles to gather evidence more quickly and efficiently. We believe these reforms would not only help law enforcement conduct more effective investigations but also encourage countries to improve and align on privacy and due process standards. Further, reducing the amount of time countries have to wait to gather evidence means would reduce the pressure to pursue more problematic ways of trying to gather data.

Current laws hinder law enforcement and user privacy

The U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) governs requests for content from law enforcement. Under ECPA, foreign countries largely have to rely on diplomatic mechanisms such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) to obtain content that is held by a company in the United States. The last data we’ve seen suggests that the average wait to receive content through the MLAT process is 10 months, far too long for most criminal cases. While law enforcement waits for this data, crimes could remain unsolved or a trial might happen missing key evidence.

The current legal framework poses a threat to users’ privacy as well. Faced with the extended delays under the MLAT process, some countries are now asserting that their laws apply to companies and individuals outside of their borders. Countries asserting extraterritorial authority potentially put companies in an untenable situation where we risk violating either the law of the requesting country or the law of the country where we are headquartered.

We are also seeing various proposals to require companies to store data within local borders as a means to gain easier access. There are a host of problems with this: small, one-off data centers are easier targets for attackers and jeopardize data security and privacy. Further, requiring businesses to build these data-centers will raise the costs for cloud services, erecting significant barriers for smaller companies.

The legal ambiguity concerning cross-border law enforcement requests has also created complications for law enforcement in the United States. Last year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was asked to determine the reach of ECPA search warrants issued under the now out-of-date statute. The Court ruled that under existing law, an ECPA search warrant cannot be used to compel service providers to disclose user data that is stored outside of the U.S. But even those judges agreed that ECPA should be updated by Congress to reflect the new reality of today’s global networks.

Principles for reform

Our proposal to address these challenges for domestic and international law enforcement, for companies, and for users has two core principles:

First, countries that honor baseline principles of privacy, human rights, and due process should be able to make direct requests to service providers for user data that pertains to serious crimes that happen within their borders and users who are within their jurisdiction.  

While the U.S. cannot solve the problem on its own, and many countries have blocking regulations, policy reform in the US is a necessary first step. We’ve been pleased to see serious debate around ways to update digital evidence laws in Washington on this issue.

In May, the U.S. Department of Justice presented legislation that would amend ECPA and  authorize U.S. providers to disclose records and communications content to foreign governments that adhere to baseline due process, human rights, and privacy standards. This legislation would be the critical starting point for the new framework of direct requests.

ECPA should also be updated to address what data is available using an ECPA search warrant in a way that serves broader public policy objectives. Law enforcement requests for digital evidence should be based on the location and nationality of users, not the location of data. A key component of this reform is the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA), which Google supports. ICPA provides a unique opportunity for Congress to update laws governing digital evidence both for investigations in the U.S. and abroad. While refinements to ICPA may be necessary, we believe the principles upon which ICPA is based are sound.

Second, provided that countries can meet baseline standards and the U.S. amends ECPA, the next step would be for the United States and foreign governments to sign new agreements that could provide an alternative to the MLAT process. The bilateral agreements that could be authorized by the legislation put forward by the Department of Justice provide a promising avenue to improve global privacy standards and create a pathway for foreign governments to obtain digital evidence for investigations.

We’re ready to do our part

We know that this will be an involved process. It’ll require action here in Washington and in capitals around the world. However, we can’t accept the complexity of action as a reason for inaction in addressing an important and growing problem.

Our proposal asks for a lot of movement from governments. But we recognize our role as well. Google is ready to work with legislators, regulators, civil society, academics, and other companies to progress these proposals and make sure that we get this right. And I look forward to conversations that we’ll have in Washington, D.C. and beyond in the months to come.

Four steps we’re taking today to fight terrorism online

Editor’s Note: This post appeared as an op-ed in the Financial Times earlier today.

Terrorism is an attack on open societies, and addressing the threat posed by violence and hate is a critical challenge for us all. Google and YouTube are committed to being part of the solution. We are working with government, law enforcement and civil society groups to tackle the problem of violent extremism online. There should be no place for terrorist content on our services.

While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now.

We have thousands of people around the world who review and counter abuse of our platforms. Our engineers have developed technology to prevent re-uploads of known terrorist content using image-matching technology. We have invested in systems that use content-based signals to help identify new videos for removal. And we have developed partnerships with expert groups, counter-extremism agencies, and the other technology companies to help inform and strengthen our efforts.

Today, we are pledging to take four additional steps.

First, we are increasing our use of technology to help identify extremist and terrorism-related videos. This can be challenging: a video of a terrorist attack may be informative news reporting if broadcast by the BBC, or glorification of violence if uploaded in a different context by a different user. We have used video analysis models to find and assess more than 50 per cent of the terrorism-related content we have removed over the past six months. We will now devote more engineering resources to apply our most advanced machine learning research to train new “content classifiers” to help us more quickly identify and remove extremist and terrorism-related content.

Second, because technology alone is not a silver bullet, we will greatly increase the number of independent experts in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger programme. Machines can help identify problematic videos, but human experts still play a role in nuanced decisions about the line between violent propaganda and religious or newsworthy speech. While many user flags can be inaccurate, Trusted Flagger reports are accurate over 90 per cent of the time and help us scale our efforts and identify emerging areas of concern. We will expand this programme by adding 50 expert NGOs to the 63 organisations who are already part of the programme, and we will support them with operational grants. This allows us to benefit from the expertise of specialised organisations working on issues like hate speech, self-harm, and terrorism. We will also expand our work with counter-extremist groups to help identify content that may be being used to radicalise and recruit extremists.

Third, we will be taking a tougher stance on videos that do not clearly violate our policies — for example, videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content. In future these will appear behind an interstitial warning and they will not be monetised, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements. That means these videos will have less engagement and be harder to find. We think this strikes the right balance between free expression and access to information without promoting extremely offensive viewpoints.

Finally, YouTube will expand its role in counter-radicalisation efforts. Building on our successful Creators for Change programme promoting YouTube voices against hate and radicalisation, we are working with Jigsaw to implement the “Redirect Method” more broadly across Europe. This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining. In previous deployments of this system, potential recruits have clicked through on the ads at an unusually high rate, and watched over half a million minutes of video content that debunks terrorist recruiting messages.

We have also recently committed to working with industry colleagues—including Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter—to establish an international forum to share and develop technology and support smaller companies and accelerate our joint efforts to tackle terrorism online.

Collectively, these changes will make a difference. And we’ll keep working on the problem until we get the balance right. Extremists and terrorists seek to attack and erode not just our security, but also our values; the very things that make our societies open and free. We must not let them. Together, we can build lasting solutions that address the threats to our security and our freedoms. It is a sweeping and complex challenge. We are committed to playing our part.

Four steps we’re taking today to fight online terror

Editor’s Note: This post appeared as an op-ed in the Financial Times earlier today.

Terrorism is an attack on open societies, and addressing the threat posed by violence and hate is a critical challenge for us all. Google and YouTube are committed to being part of the solution. We are working with government, law enforcement and civil society groups to tackle the problem of violent extremism online. There should be no place for terrorist content on our services.

While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now.

We have thousands of people around the world who review and counter abuse of our platforms. Our engineers have developed technology to prevent re-uploads of known terrorist content using image-matching technology. We have invested in systems that use content-based signals to help identify new videos for removal. And we have developed partnerships with expert groups, counter-extremism agencies, and the other technology companies to help inform and strengthen our efforts.

Today, we are pledging to take four additional steps.

First, we are increasing our use of technology to help identify extremist and terrorism-related videos. This can be challenging: a video of a terrorist attack may be informative news reporting if broadcast by the BBC, or glorification of violence if uploaded in a different context by a different user. We have used video analysis models to find and assess more than 50 per cent of the terrorism-related content we have removed over the past six months. We will now devote more engineering resources to apply our most advanced machine learning research to train new “content classifiers” to help us more quickly identify and remove extremist and terrorism-related content.

Second, because technology alone is not a silver bullet, we will greatly increase the number of independent experts in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger programme. Machines can help identify problematic videos, but human experts still play a role in nuanced decisions about the line between violent propaganda and religious or newsworthy speech. While many user flags can be inaccurate, Trusted Flagger reports are accurate over 90 per cent of the time and help us scale our efforts and identify emerging areas of concern. We will expand this programme by adding 50 expert NGOs to the 63 organisations who are already part of the programme, and we will support them with operational grants. This allows us to benefit from the expertise of specialised organisations working on issues like hate speech, self-harm, and terrorism. We will also expand our work with counter-extremist groups to help identify content that may be being used to radicalise and recruit extremists.

Third, we will be taking a tougher stance on videos that do not clearly violate our policies — for example, videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content. In future these will appear behind an interstitial warning and they will not be monetised, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements. That means these videos will have less engagement and be harder to find. We think this strikes the right balance between free expression and access to information without promoting extremely offensive viewpoints.

Finally, YouTube will expand its role in counter-radicalisation efforts. Building on our successful Creators for Change programme promoting YouTube voices against hate and radicalisation, we are working with Jigsaw to implement the “Redirect Method” more broadly across Europe. This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining. In previous deployments of this system, potential recruits have clicked through on the ads at an unusually high rate, and watched over half a million minutes of video content that debunks terrorist recruiting messages.

We have also recently committed to working with industry colleagues—including Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter—to establish an international forum to share and develop technology and support smaller companies and accelerate our joint efforts to tackle terrorism online.

Collectively, these changes will make a difference. And we’ll keep working on the problem until we get the balance right. Extremists and terrorists seek to attack and erode not just our security, but also our values; the very things that make our societies open and free. We must not let them. Together, we can build lasting solutions that address the threats to our security and our freedoms. It is a sweeping and complex challenge. We are committed to playing our part.

An international framework for digital evidence

Today, we’re releasing the latest version of our Transparency Report regarding government requests for user data. In the second half of 2016, we received over 45,000 government requests for user data worldwide. This is the most government requests we’ve received for user data in a six-month period since we released our first transparency report in 2010.

In many ways, this shouldn’t be surprising. As more people use more of our services, and as we offer new ones, it is natural that we are seeing an increase in government requests. For example, Gmail had around 425 million active users in 2012, and more than 1 billion by 2016. And as digital evidence increasingly becomes part of criminal investigations, other companies are seeing similar trends. We of course continue to require appropriate legal process for these requests, and resist overbroad requests not narrowly calibrated to legitimate law enforcement requirements.  

Cross-border requests for data continue to increase over time as well, from 30,755 requests from countries other than the United States in the first half of 2016 to 31,877 in the second half of the year. This underscores the need for an improved international framework that meets legitimate law enforcement needs and ensures high standards of due process, privacy and human rights. The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process facilitates the production of digital evidence in cross-border investigations (when the crime occurs in one country but data is held by a company in another country). But the MLAT process is too often slow and cumbersome: on average, it takes 10 months to process an MLAT request in the United States.  That’s a long time for an investigator to wait.

Without better and faster ways to collect cross-border evidence, countries will be tempted to take unilateral actions to deal with a fundamentally multilateral problem. A sustainable framework for handling digital evidence in legitimate cross-border investigations will help avoid a chaotic, conflicting patchwork of data location proposals and ad hoc surveillance measures that may threaten user privacy and generate uncertainty for users and businesses, all without fundamentally advancing legitimate law enforcement and national security interests.

We believe that governments can develop solutions that appropriately balance the various interests at stake. This includes respecting the legitimate privacy rights of users, wherever they are, as well as the obligations of governments to investigate crimes and protect their residents. These issues must be addressed by a broad group of stakeholders, including governments, citizens, civil society groups and providers of information services that cross national borders.

This discussion will raise difficult questions about the scope of government surveillance powers, the extent of digital jurisdiction, the importance of rapid investigations, and privacy rights in the Internet age — fundamental issues that can’t be adequately addressed by courts using antiquated legal standards or by governments acting in an ad hoc fashion.

We look forward to sharing more thoughts about the legal frameworks that can address some of these challenges in the coming weeks and months. And we look forward to working with relevant stakeholders to craft viable and lasting solutions.

An international framework for digital evidence

Today, we’re releasing the latest version of our Transparency Report regarding government requests for user data. In the second half of 2016, we received over 45,000 government requests for user data worldwide. This is the most government requests we’ve received for user data in a six-month period since we released our first transparency report in 2010.

In many ways, this shouldn’t be surprising. As more people use more of our services, and as we offer new ones, it is natural that we are seeing an increase in government requests. For example, Gmail had around 425 million active users in 2012, and more than 1 billion by 2016. And as digital evidence increasingly becomes part of criminal investigations, other companies are seeing similar trends. We of course continue to require appropriate legal process for these requests, resist overbroad requests not narrowly calibrated to legitimate law enforcement requirements, and reform modernization of data surveillance laws.  

Cross-border requests for data continue to account for a substantial portion of overall requests, with over 31,000 in the second half of 2016 coming from outside of the United States.. This volume underscores the need for an improved international framework that meets legitimate law enforcement needs and ensures high standards of due process, privacy and human rights. The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process facilitates the production of digital evidence in cross-border investigations (when the crime occurs in one country but data is held by a company in another country). But the MLAT process is often slow and cumbersome: on average, it takes 10 months to process an MLAT request in the United States. That’s a long time for an investigator to wait.

Without better and faster ways to collect cross-border evidence, countries will be tempted to take unilateral actions to deal with a fundamentally multilateral problem. A sustainable framework for handling digital evidence in legitimate cross-border investigations will help avoid a chaotic, conflicting patchwork of data location proposals and ad hoc surveillance measures that may threaten privacy and generate uncertainty, without fundamentally advancing legitimate law enforcement and national security interests.

We believe that governments can develop solutions that appropriately balance the various interests at stake. This includes respecting the legitimate privacy rights of users, wherever they are, as well as the obligations of governments to investigate crimes and protect their residents. The conversation should include a broad group of stakeholders, including not just law enforcement and national security perspectives, but also the voices of citizens, civil society groups and providers of information services that cross national borders.

This discussion will raise difficult questions about the scope of government surveillance powers, the extent of digital jurisdiction, the importance of rapid investigations, and privacy rights in the Internet age—fundamental issues that can’t be adequately addressed by courts using antiquated legal standards or by governments acting in an ad hoc fashion.

We look forward to sharing more thoughts about the legal frameworks that can address some of these challenges in the coming weeks and months. And we look forward to working with relevant stakeholders to craft viable and lasting solutions.  

Android: Choice at every turn

In 2007, we launched Android, a free and open-source operating system. Smartphones back then were an expensive rarity. We wanted to change that — to stimulate innovation and increase choice for consumers — and it worked.

Android means manufacturers don’t have to buy or build expensive mobile operating systems. As a result, smartphones are now available at dramatically lower prices — as little as 45 euros — and have become much more accessible to many more people. Today, more than 24,000 devices from over 1,300 brands run on Android. And European developers are able to distribute their apps to over a billion people around the world. Android is not a ‘one way street’; it’s a multi-lane highway of choice.

Last April, the European Commission issued a Statement of Objections raising concerns over how we manage Android compatibility and distribute our own apps. The response we filed today shows how the Android ecosystem carefully balances the interests of users, developers, hardware makers, and mobile network operators. Android hasn’t hurt competition, it’s expanded it.

First, the Commission’s case is based on the idea that Android doesn’t compete with Apple’s iOS. We don’t see it that way.  We don’t think Apple does either. Or phone makers. Or developers. Or users. In fact, 89% of respondents to the Commission’s own market survey confirmed that Android and Apple compete. To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today’s competitive smartphone landscape.  

Second, we are concerned that the Commission’s preliminary findings underestimate the importance of developers and the dangers of fragmentation in a mobile ecosystem.  Developers — and there were at least 1.3 million of them in Europe in 2015 — depend on a stable and consistent framework to do their work. Any phone maker can download Android and modify it in any way they choose. But that flexibility makes Android vulnerable to fragmentation, a problem that plagued previous operating systems like Unix and Symbian. When anyone can modify your code, how do you ensure there’s a common, consistent version of the operating system, so that developers don’t have to go through the hassle and expense of building multiple versions of their apps?

To manage this challenge, we work with hardware makers to establish a minimum level of compatibility among Android devices.  Critically, we give phone makers wide latitude to build devices that go above that baseline, which is why you see such a varied universe of Android devices. That’s the key: our voluntary compatibility agreements enable variety while giving developers confidence to create apps that run seamlessly across thousands of different phones and tablets. This balance stimulates competition between Android devices as well as between Android and Apple’s iPhone.

Compatibility

Android’s compatibility rules help minimize fragmentation and sustain a healthy ecosystem for developers. Ninety-four percent of respondents who answered questions on fragmentation in a Commission market survey said that it harms the Android platform. Developers worry about it, and our competitors with proprietary platforms (who don’t face the same risk) regularly criticize us for it. The Commission’s proposal risks making fragmentation worse, hurting the Android platform and mobile phone competition.

Third, the Commission argues that we shouldn’t offer some Google apps as part of a suite. No manufacturer is obliged to preload any Google apps on an Android phone. But we do offer manufacturers a suite of apps so that when you buy a new phone you can access a familiar set of basic services. Android’s competitors, including Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Windows phone, not only do the same, but they allow much less choice in the apps that come with their phones. On Android, Google’s apps typically account for less than one-third of the preloaded apps on the device (and only a small fraction of device memory). A consumer can swipe away any of our apps at any time. And, uniquely, hardware makers and carriers can pre-install rival apps right next to ours. In competition-speak, that means there’s no “foreclosure”.

Real Estate

There’s also plenty of evidence that consumers can easily choose which apps they want — something the Commission has recognized in other investigations. The average Android user in Europe downloads an additional 50 apps over the lifetime of their device. Downloading and replacing an app or widget is simple — you can do it in thirty seconds. Users downloaded 65 billion apps from Google Play in 2015 — an average of more than 175 million apps a day. Since 2011, apps offering similar functionality to those in our suite have been downloaded almost 15 billion times. Again, there’s no evidence of foreclosure.

Many pre-installed apps don’t succeed, and many have been extremely successful through user downloads — think of Spotify or Snapchat. Our apps suite approach explicitly preserves users’ freedom to choose the apps they want on their phones.

App Competition

Finally, distributing products like Google Search together with Google Play permits us to offer our entire suite for free — as opposed to, for example, charging upfront licensing fees. This free distribution is an efficient solution for everyone — it lowers prices for phone makers and consumers, while still letting us sustain our substantial investment in Android and Play.

Today’s mobile devices show all the signs of fierce competition with a wide range of business models: from vertically integrated ones like Apple’s iOS to open-source systems like Android. The rapid innovation, wide choice, and falling prices we see in smartphones represent the hallmarks of robust competition.

Android has unleashed a new generation of innovation and inter-platform competition. By any measure, it is the most open, flexible, and differentiated of the mobile computing platforms.

But open-source platforms are fragile. They survive and grow by balancing the needs of all participants, including users and developers. The Commission’s approach would upset this balance, and send an unintended signal favouring closed over open platforms.  It would mean less innovation, less choice, less competition, and higher prices. That wouldn’t be just a bad outcome for us. It would be a bad outcome for developers, for phone makers and carriers, and, most critically, for consumers.  

That’s the case we are making to the Commission in our filing today. We look forward to continuing the dialogue.

For more Android facts, visit android.com/everyone

Source: Android


Android: Choice at every turn

In 2007, we launched Android, a free and open-source operating system. Smartphones back then were an expensive rarity. We wanted to change that — to stimulate innovation and increase choice for consumers — and it worked.

Android means manufacturers don’t have to buy or build expensive mobile operating systems. As a result, smartphones are now available at dramatically lower prices — as little as 45 euros — and have become much more accessible to many more people. Today, more than 24,000 devices from over 1,300 brands run on Android. And European developers are able to distribute their apps to over a billion people around the world. Android is not a ‘one way street’; it’s a multi-lane highway of choice.

Last April, the European Commission issued a Statement of Objections raising concerns over how we manage Android compatibility and distribute our own apps. The response we filed today shows how the Android ecosystem carefully balances the interests of users, developers, hardware makers, and mobile network operators. Android hasn’t hurt competition, it’s expanded it.

First, the Commission’s case is based on the idea that Android doesn’t compete with Apple’s iOS. We don’t see it that way.  We don’t think Apple does either. Or phone makers. Or developers. Or users. In fact, 89% of respondents to the Commission’s own market survey confirmed that Android and Apple compete. To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today’s competitive smartphone landscape.  

Second, we are concerned that the Commission’s preliminary findings underestimate the importance of developers and the dangers of fragmentation in a mobile ecosystem.  Developers — and there were at least 1.3 million of them in Europe in 2015 — depend on a stable and consistent framework to do their work. Any phone maker can download Android and modify it in any way they choose. But that flexibility makes Android vulnerable to fragmentation, a problem that plagued previous operating systems like Unix and Symbian. When anyone can modify your code, how do you ensure there’s a common, consistent version of the operating system, so that developers don’t have to go through the hassle and expense of building multiple versions of their apps?

To manage this challenge, we work with hardware makers to establish a minimum level of compatibility among Android devices.  Critically, we give phone makers wide latitude to build devices that go above that baseline, which is why you see such a varied universe of Android devices. That’s the key: our voluntary compatibility agreements enable variety while giving developers confidence to create apps that run seamlessly across thousands of different phones and tablets. This balance stimulates competition between Android devices as well as between Android and Apple’s iPhone.

Compatibility

Android’s compatibility rules help minimize fragmentation and sustain a healthy ecosystem for developers. Ninety-four percent of respondents who answered questions on fragmentation in a Commission market survey said that it harms the Android platform. Developers worry about it, and our competitors with proprietary platforms (who don’t face the same risk) regularly criticize us for it. The Commission’s proposal risks making fragmentation worse, hurting the Android platform and mobile phone competition.

Third, the Commission argues that we shouldn’t offer some Google apps as part of a suite. No manufacturer is obliged to preload any Google apps on an Android phone. But we do offer manufacturers a suite of apps so that when you buy a new phone you can access a familiar set of basic services. Android’s competitors, including Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Windows phone, not only do the same, but they allow much less choice in the apps that come with their phones. On Android, Google’s apps typically account for less than one-third of the preloaded apps on the device (and only a small fraction of device memory). A consumer can swipe away any of our apps at any time. And, uniquely, hardware makers and carriers can pre-install rival apps right next to ours. In competition-speak, that means there’s no “foreclosure”.

Real Estate

There’s also plenty of evidence that consumers can easily choose which apps they want — something the Commission has recognized in other investigations. The average Android user in Europe downloads an additional 50 apps over the lifetime of their device. Downloading and replacing an app or widget is simple — you can do it in thirty seconds. Users downloaded 65 billion apps from Google Play in 2015 — an average of more than 175 million apps a day. Since 2011, apps offering similar functionality to those in our suite have been downloaded almost 15 billion times. Again, there’s no evidence of foreclosure.

Many pre-installed apps don’t succeed, and many have been extremely successful through user downloads — think of Spotify or Snapchat. Our apps suite approach explicitly preserves users’ freedom to choose the apps they want on their phones.

App Competition

Finally, distributing products like Google Search together with Google Play permits us to offer our entire suite for free — as opposed to, for example, charging upfront licensing fees. This free distribution is an efficient solution for everyone — it lowers prices for phone makers and consumers, while still letting us sustain our substantial investment in Android and Play.

Today’s mobile devices show all the signs of fierce competition with a wide range of business models: from vertically integrated ones like Apple’s iOS to open-source systems like Android. The rapid innovation, wide choice, and falling prices we see in smartphones represent the hallmarks of robust competition.

Android has unleashed a new generation of innovation and inter-platform competition. By any measure, it is the most open, flexible, and differentiated of the mobile computing platforms.

But open-source platforms are fragile. They survive and grow by balancing the needs of all participants, including users and developers. The Commission’s approach would upset this balance, and send an unintended signal favouring closed over open platforms.  It would mean less innovation, less choice, less competition, and higher prices. That wouldn’t be just a bad outcome for us. It would be a bad outcome for developers, for phone makers and carriers, and, most critically, for consumers.  

That’s the case we are making to the Commission in our filing today. We look forward to continuing the dialogue.

For more Android facts, visit android.com/everyone

Android: Choice at every turn

In 2007, we launched Android, a free and open-source operating system. Smartphones back then were an expensive rarity. We wanted to change that — to stimulate innovation and increase choice for consumers — and it worked.

Android means manufacturers don’t have to buy or build expensive mobile operating systems. As a result, smartphones are now available at dramatically lower prices — as little as 45 euros — and have become much more accessible to many more people. Today, more than 24,000 devices from over 1,300 brands run on Android. And European developers are able to distribute their apps to over a billion people around the world. Android is not a ‘one way street’; it’s a multi-lane highway of choice.

Last April, the European Commission issued a Statement of Objections raising concerns over how we manage Android compatibility and distribute our own apps. The response we filed today shows how the Android ecosystem carefully balances the interests of users, developers, hardware makers, and mobile network operators. Android hasn’t hurt competition, it’s expanded it.

First, the Commission’s case is based on the idea that Android doesn’t compete with Apple’s iOS. We don’t see it that way.  We don’t think Apple does either. Or phone makers. Or developers. Or users. In fact, 89% of respondents to the Commission’s own market survey confirmed that Android and Apple compete. To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today’s competitive smartphone landscape.  

Second, we are concerned that the Commission’s preliminary findings underestimate the importance of developers and the dangers of fragmentation in a mobile ecosystem.  Developers — and there were at least 1.3 million of them in Europe in 2015 — depend on a stable and consistent framework to do their work. Any phone maker can download Android and modify it in any way they choose. But that flexibility makes Android vulnerable to fragmentation, a problem that plagued previous operating systems like Unix and Symbian. When anyone can modify your code, how do you ensure there’s a common, consistent version of the operating system, so that developers don’t have to go through the hassle and expense of building multiple versions of their apps?

To manage this challenge, we work with hardware makers to establish a minimum level of compatibility among Android devices.  Critically, we give phone makers wide latitude to build devices that go above that baseline, which is why you see such a varied universe of Android devices. That’s the key: our voluntary compatibility agreements enable variety while giving developers confidence to create apps that run seamlessly across thousands of different phones and tablets. This balance stimulates competition between Android devices as well as between Android and Apple’s iPhone.

Compatibility

Android’s compatibility rules help minimize fragmentation and sustain a healthy ecosystem for developers. Ninety-four percent of respondents who answered questions on fragmentation in a Commission market survey said that it harms the Android platform. Developers worry about it, and our competitors with proprietary platforms (who don’t face the same risk) regularly criticize us for it. The Commission’s proposal risks making fragmentation worse, hurting the Android platform and mobile phone competition.

Third, the Commission argues that we shouldn’t offer some Google apps as part of a suite. No manufacturer is obliged to preload any Google apps on an Android phone. But we do offer manufacturers a suite of apps so that when you buy a new phone you can access a familiar set of basic services. Android’s competitors, including Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Windows phone, not only do the same, but they allow much less choice in the apps that come with their phones. On Android, Google’s apps typically account for less than one-third of the preloaded apps on the device (and only a small fraction of device memory). A consumer can swipe away any of our apps at any time. And, uniquely, hardware makers and carriers can pre-install rival apps right next to ours. In competition-speak, that means there’s no “foreclosure”.

Real Estate

There’s also plenty of evidence that consumers can easily choose which apps they want — something the Commission has recognized in other investigations. The average Android user in Europe downloads an additional 50 apps over the lifetime of their device. Downloading and replacing an app or widget is simple — you can do it in thirty seconds. Users downloaded 65 billion apps from Google Play in 2015 — an average of more than 175 million apps a day. Since 2011, apps offering similar functionality to those in our suite have been downloaded almost 15 billion times. Again, there’s no evidence of foreclosure.

Many pre-installed apps don’t succeed, and many have been extremely successful through user downloads — think of Spotify or Snapchat. Our apps suite approach explicitly preserves users’ freedom to choose the apps they want on their phones.

App Competition

Finally, distributing products like Google Search together with Google Play permits us to offer our entire suite for free — as opposed to, for example, charging upfront licensing fees. This free distribution is an efficient solution for everyone — it lowers prices for phone makers and consumers, while still letting us sustain our substantial investment in Android and Play.

Today’s mobile devices show all the signs of fierce competition with a wide range of business models: from vertically integrated ones like Apple’s iOS to open-source systems like Android. The rapid innovation, wide choice, and falling prices we see in smartphones represent the hallmarks of robust competition.

Android has unleashed a new generation of innovation and inter-platform competition. By any measure, it is the most open, flexible, and differentiated of the mobile computing platforms.

But open-source platforms are fragile. They survive and grow by balancing the needs of all participants, including users and developers. The Commission’s approach would upset this balance, and send an unintended signal favouring closed over open platforms.  It would mean less innovation, less choice, less competition, and higher prices. That wouldn’t be just a bad outcome for us. It would be a bad outcome for developers, for phone makers and carriers, and, most critically, for consumers.  

That’s the case we are making to the Commission in our filing today. We look forward to continuing the dialogue.

For more Android facts, visit android.com/everyone