Category Archives: Google Europe Blog

Google’s views on the Internet and society Europe

Defending access to lawful information at Europe’s highest court

Under the right to be forgotten, Europeans can ask for information about themselves to be removed from search results for their name if it is outdated, or irrelevant. From the outset, we have publicly stated our concerns about the ruling, but we have still worked hard to comply—and to do so conscientiously and in consultation with Data Protection Authorities. To date, we’ve handled requests to delist nearly 2 million search results in Europe, removing more than 800,000 of them. We have also taken great care not to erase results that are clearly in the public interest, as the European Court of Justice directed. Most Data Protection Authorities have concluded that this approach strikes the right balance.


But two right to be forgotten cases now in front of the European Court of Justice threaten that balance.


In the first case, four individuals—who we can’t name—present an apparently simple argument: European law protects sensitive personal data; sensitive personal data includes information about your political beliefs or your criminal record; so all mentions of criminality or political affiliation should automatically be purged from search results, without any consideration of public interest.


If the Court accepted this argument, it would give carte blanche to people who might wish to use privacy laws to hide information of public interest—like a politician’s political views, or a public figure’s criminal record. This would effectively erase the public’s right to know important information about people who represent them in society or provide them services.


In the second case, the Court must decide whether Google should enforce the right to be forgotten not just in Europe, but in every country around the world. We—and a wide range of human rights and media organizations, and others, like Wikimedia—believe that this runs contrary to the basic principles of international law: no one country should be able to impose its rules on the citizens of another country, especially when it comes to linking to lawful content. Adopting such a rule would encourage other countries, including less democratic regimes, to try to impose their values on citizens in the rest of the world.


We’re speaking out because restricting access to lawful and valuable information is contrary to our mission as a company and keeps us from delivering the comprehensive search service that people expect of us.


But the threat is much greater than this. These cases represent a serious assault on the public’s right to access lawful information.


We will argue in court for a reasonable interpretation of the right to be forgotten and for the ability of countries around the world to set their own laws, not have those of others imposed on them. Up to November 20, European countries and institutions have the chance to make their views known to the Court. And we encourage everyone who cares about public access to information to stand up and fight to preserve it.

Expanding access to renewable energy in the EU

Earlier this year, we hosted an event in Brussels that brought business leaders, policy makers and civil society together to discuss ways to ensure EU renewable energy policy meets the changing needs of consumers. Last week, we were back in Brussels to continue the discussion at RE-Source, the largest gathering in the EU to-date of companies committed to buying renewable energy to cover their operations.


With 14 data centers on four continents and offices in 150 cities around the globe, Google consumes a lot of power. And combating climate change requires the world to transition to a clean energy economy. So we’ve made it a top priority not only to become more energy efficient but also to ensure that the energy we purchase comes from clean sources such as renewables. We have also found that purchasing energy from renewable resources also makes good business sense, for two key reasons:

  • The cost to produce and deploy renewable energy technologies like wind and solar has come down precipitously in recent years. In fact, in a growing number of areas, renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy available on the grid.
  • For those of us who manage a global power portfolio like many corporations, renewable energy contracts provide financial certainty and protection against fuel-price volatility.
Gary Demasi at RE SOURCE
Gary Demasi, Global Director of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy, during a fireside chat with Sonja van Renssen, Co-founder, Energy Post, at RE-Source 2017

Google is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. To date, we’ve signed contracts to purchase 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy. In the EU alone, we have signed 669 MW of deals across 8 projects in Sweden, Norway, and The Netherlands and we are on track to reach 100% renewable energy for our operations in 2017—a major milestone. You can read more about our global sustainability efforts in the 2017 progress update of Google’s Environmental Report.


Despite this progress, many barriers to purchasing renewable energy still exist. The challenge ahead is to drive even more renewable purchasing and grow the size of the market. The EU is currently considering a series of directives on clean energy that provide opportunity to remove many of these barriers.  We look forward to working with EU policymakers and other stakeholders to ensure these efforts maximize the opportunity to scale renewables across Europe. For us, reaching 100% renewable energy purchasing on a global and annual basis is an important milestone but we’re just getting started. We want to help ensure that all energy consumers have a clear and easy path to choosing renewable sources.

Expanding access to renewable energy in the EU

Earlier this year, we hosted an event in Brussels that brought business leaders, policy makers and civil society together to discuss ways to ensure EU renewable energy policy meets the changing needs of consumers. Last week, we were back in Brussels to continue the discussion at RE-Source, the largest gathering in the EU to-date of companies committed to buying renewable energy to cover their operations.


With 14 data centers on four continents and offices in 150 cities around the globe, Google consumes a lot of power. And combating climate change requires the world to transition to a clean energy economy. So we’ve made it a top priority not only to become more energy efficient but also to ensure that the energy we purchase comes from clean sources such as renewables. We have also found that purchasing energy from renewable resources also makes good business sense, for two key reasons:

  • The cost to produce and deploy renewable energy technologies like wind and solar has come down precipitously in recent years. In fact, in a growing number of areas, renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy available on the grid.
  • For those of us who manage a global power portfolio like many corporations, renewable energy contracts provide financial certainty and protection against fuel-price volatility.
Gary Demasi at RE SOURCE
Gary Demasi, Global Director of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy, during a fireside chat with Sonja van Renssen, Co-founder, Energy Post, at RE-Source 2017

Google is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. To date, we’ve signed contracts to purchase 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy. In the EU alone, we have signed 669 MW of deals across 8 projects in Sweden, Norway, and The Netherlands and we are on track to reach 100% renewable energy for our operations in 2017—a major milestone. You can read more about our global sustainability efforts in the 2017 progress update of Google’s Environmental Report.


Despite this progress, many barriers to purchasing renewable energy still exist. The challenge ahead is to drive even more renewable purchasing and grow the size of the market. The EU is currently considering a series of directives on clean energy that provide opportunity to remove many of these barriers.  We look forward to working with EU policymakers and other stakeholders to ensure these efforts maximize the opportunity to scale renewables across Europe. For us, reaching 100% renewable energy purchasing on a global and annual basis is an important milestone but we’re just getting started. We want to help ensure that all energy consumers have a clear and easy path to choosing renewable sources.

Towards a future of work that works for everyone

The future of work concerns us all. Our grandchildren will have jobs that don’t yet exist, and will live lives we cannot imagine. In Europe, getting the future of work right for individuals, societies and industries means having an open debate about the possibilities right now. We want to be a part of that discussion, and help contribute to a future of work that works for everyone. So last week in Stockholm and The Hague we brought together a range of leading international experts from academia, trade unions, public sector and businesses to discuss the impact of technology on jobs. We also asked McKinsey for a report on the impact of automation on work, jobs and skills.


As advances in machine learning and robotics make headlines, there’s a heated debate about whether innovation is a magic fix for an aging workforce, or a fast track to mass unemployment. Data can illuminate that debate, and McKinsey focused their research on the Nordics, Benelux, Ireland and Estonia—a diverse group which have at least one thing in common: They’re Europe’s digital frontrunners. The report from McKinsey shows us that while automation will impact existing jobs, innovation and adopting new technology can increase the total number of jobs available.


The report makes it very clear that divergent paths are possible. To make a success of the digital transition, countries should promote adoption of new technologies and double down on skills training and education. We want to play our part here. One example of how we contribute is our program Digitalakademin in Sweden: So far, we’ve trained more than 20,000 people in small- and medium-sized business in digital skills. And together with the Swedish National Employment Agency we’ve developed training to help unemployed people get the skills necessary for the jobs of the future.

As Erik Sandström from the National Employment Agency stressed at our event in Stockholm, it “all starts with digital competence—if you’re lacking in digital competence you will overestimate the risks and underestimate the opportunities.” That sentiment was echoed in a keynote by Ylva Johansson, the Swedish Minister for Employment and Integration: “Why do we have an attitude where unions, employees are positively accepting ongoing changes? Because we’ve been able to protect people and to present new opportunities through reskilling.”

For our event in The Hague we partnered with Dutch company Randstad to discuss the same topic of future of work. Their CEO, Jacques van den Broek, struck an optimistic tone: “The digital transformation is an opportunity, not a threat,” he said. “The lesson we’ve learned is that whilst some jobs disappear, tech creates jobs. The longer you wait to embrace that change, the longer it takes to be able to compete.”


The coming changes will likely affect a wide range of tasks and jobs. “In Denmark, we discussed the destruction of jobs,” Thomas Søby from the Danish Steelworkers Union said. “New ones are created,” he added. “But some people will lose their jobs and feel left behind, and as a society we need to take care of those people.”


Those new jobs aren’t simply replacements—they’re roles we don’t have yet. “In a few years something else will be hot,” said Aart-Jan de Geus of Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German private foundation which looks at managing future challenges. He stressed that fears about job losses shouldn’t be overstated, especially as consumer demand and spending won’t go away. “The big mistake would be to try to protect jobs; we need to protect workers.”


In The Hague, Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s executive chairman, ended on a positive note, saying that anxiety about change was understandable but that society can make sure the digital transition includes everyone. “Incumbents resist change. This is not new and in fact we have seen it throughout every stage of history,” he said. “But if history has taught us anything, it is that when disruptors and pioneers are right, society always recalibrates.”

Bringing our support to Europe Code Week

Computer science fosters innovation, critical thinking and empowers students with the skills to create powerful tools to solve major challenges. Yet, there are not enough students who have access to opportunities to develop their technical skills.

At Google, we aim to equip students of all backgrounds with the skills to be creators, and not just consumers, of technology. As part of our efforts to encourage more students to learn about computing, we are participating in the European Commission’s Europe Code Week 2017. This is a grassroots movement that encourages programming by showing how to bring ideas to life with code, demystifying these skills and bringing motivated people together to learn. Google has been involved in this campaign since 2014, providing sponsorships to organizations running initiatives to introduce students to computer science.

This year, we received almost 500 applications and it was an incredibly tough selection process. We’re funding 60 initiatives in 33 countries, with a goal to reach over 30,000 students. Some of the initiatives we are supporting include “Code me for the future” in Bosnia-Herzegovina which will introduce 500 rural students to their first steps in programming and “Coding pirates Skoedstrup” in Denmark through which 1400 students will work together to solve world problems through computing, problem solving, programming and tech-hacks. You can read more about the sponsorship recipients here.

Google is delighted to support these great efforts. See Code Week’s events page to find all the different activities planned, and see our getting started guides in computer science for France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK now. For all other countries please visit edu.google.com/cs

Bavarian State Library and Google celebrate 10 years of partnership

Ten years ago the venerable Bavarian State Library from Munich (BSB) and the comparatively young Google started their joint adventure: the digitization of hundreds of thousands of historical writings from the archives of the BSB and its Bavarian regional libraries. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of our collaboration, we’ve published a digital exhibition on Google Arts & Culture.

The BSB looks back on almost 500 years of history. In 1558 it was founded by Duke Albrecht V. With more than 10 million volumes, 61,000 current journals and 130,000 manuscripts, the library is one of the most important knowledge centers in the world.

To preserve that heritage, BSB has been working with Google since 2007 to digitize over 1.9 million copyright-free titles—such as books, maps and magazines—from the 17th to the end of the 19th century. Thanks to this partnership, BSB is now the largest digital database of all German libraries. The project has long been expanded and now covers the holdings of the ten regional state libraries such as Regensburg, Passau or Augsburg.

Not only for us at Google this clearly is a milestone in digitization and the prototype of a public-private partnership. Klaus Ceynowa, Managing Director of BSB, adds: “Content in context is our mantra. Google has played a major role in helping us achieve it!”

BSB 5
Tausend und eine Nacht : arabische Erzählungen, One Thousand and One Nights: Arabic stories" (1872), Weil, Gustav
BSB 4
“Atlas Minor: Ein kurtze jedoch gründtliche Beschreibung der gantzen Welt und aller ihrer Theyl” (1631), Gerard Mercator
BSB 6
“The lion” - Illustration from “The small menagerie - drawings of the most extraordinary wild animals” (1854)
BSB 1
“The Zeitgeist and the people, a mirror of the sins of the world: An Octoberfest-Sermon” (1835)

Bavarian State Library and Google celebrate 10 years of partnership

Ten years ago the venerable Bavarian State Library from Munich (BSB) and the comparatively young Google started their joint adventure: the digitization of hundreds of thousands of historical writings from the archives of the BSB and its Bavarian regional libraries. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of our collaboration, we’ve published a digital exhibition on Google Arts & Culture.

The BSB looks back on almost 500 years of history. In 1558 it was founded by Duke Albrecht V. With more than 10 million volumes, 61,000 current journals and 130,000 manuscripts, the library is one of the most important knowledge centers in the world.

To preserve that heritage, BSB has been working with Google since 2007 to digitize over 1.9 million copyright-free titles—such as books, maps and magazines—from the 17th to the end of the 19th century. Thanks to this partnership, BSB is now the largest digital database of all German libraries. The project has long been expanded and now covers the holdings of the ten regional state libraries such as Regensburg, Passau or Augsburg.

Not only for us at Google this clearly is a milestone in digitization and the prototype of a public-private partnership. Klaus Ceynowa, Managing Director of BSB, adds: “Content in context is our mantra. Google has played a major role in helping us achieve it!”

BSB 5
Tausend und eine Nacht : arabische Erzählungen, One Thousand and One Nights: Arabic stories" (1872), Weil, Gustav
BSB 4
“Atlas Minor: Ein kurtze jedoch gründtliche Beschreibung der gantzen Welt und aller ihrer Theyl” (1631), Gerard Mercator
BSB 6
“The lion” - Illustration from “The small menagerie - drawings of the most extraordinary wild animals” (1854)
BSB 1
“The Zeitgeist and the people, a mirror of the sins of the world: An Octoberfest-Sermon” (1835)

A ride to remember on World Alzheimer’s Day

Editor's note: Anne-Christine Hertz is a Swedish inventor who works at Health Technology Centre of Halland. Today, she shares a story of how the Centre used Street View to invent a device that helps elderly with Alzheimer’s.

A few weeks ago I met 75-year-old Lars Jonsson and his wife Ingrid. They married when Lars was 40 and have lived a happy, fulfilling life together. Lars also suffers from dementia.

Every three seconds someone develops dementia, a condition that creates disability and dependency among many elderly, robbing them of memory and judgment. It's not only overwhelming and stressful for those suffering, but also their loved ones. It was tough on Ingrid when her husband suddenly had trouble recalling the memories they’d spent a lifetime creating.

We met Lars and Ingrid when they came to test a device we invented to improve the lives of dementia patients. It’s called BikeAround, and it pairs a stationary bike with Google Street View projected on a big screen to take patients on a virtual ride down memory lane, letting them pedal around a place they have visited in the past. As Lars sat in the saddle, Ingrid suggested we take him back to the city and church in which they got married. Lars’s face flickered with happiness as the church rose up before him. The expression on his wife’s face when she knew for sure that he remembered was heartwarming

The development of the BikeAround system, which is now owned by health care company Camanio Care, started back in 2010 at Health Technology Center in Halland, Sweden. We were conducting research on dementia, and noticed people living with the disease were given different access to physical activity depending on which municipality they were living in. Since it’s often recommended that dementia patients perform physical activities to stimulate both physical and mental health, this was an issue. We wanted to find a way to motivate the elderly with dementia to exercise more, in a safe and secure way.

Dementia patient Bengt and his wife Laila test the BikeAround system.

Our strongest memories are tied inexorably to location. It’s no coincidence, when you think about any big memory or past event, your first thought is often “Where was I when that happened?” BikeAround taps into this idea by combining mental and physical stimulation—surrounding the patient with places they recognize through the Street View images, and then having them pedal and steer through them. Scientists think this kind of pairing produces dopamine in the brain and has the potential to affect memory management in a profound way.

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, a time when people and organizations from all over the world concentrate their efforts on raising awareness of this disease for which there’s no cure. Researchers all over the world are trying to find new ways to increase quality of life for the people affected by the disease. The experience with Lars—and many others patients—proves we’ve developed not just a product for improving health, but something that creates emotion and connects people. Patients often find the BikeAround solution so fascinating—so comforting—they don’t want to get off. Neighborhoods they grew up in. Parks they played in as a child. Family visits to the seaside. They remember again. That’s a feeling of freedom.

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Bengt Ivarsson tests BikeAround, a stationary bike that’s paired with Google Street View to take dementia patients on a virtual ride down memory lane.

I have always looked at digitization and technology as a catalyst to open up the world not just to the tech savvy, but also to the elderly, who often live in digital exclusion. We’re excited about having found a way to bring happiness to many people living with dementia and their relatives. But what's also exciting to me is that this is just one example of how technology can be harnessed to make a real impact on people's lives. If we look beyond ourselves and unleash our imaginations, there's no limit to what we can do to help others.

Ti Amo Italy: a historic theater takes center stage in a new music video

“Ti Amo.” I love you. The new song from French synth-pop stars Phoenix. The title song from their recently released album “Ti Amo” is a love letter to Italy: from festivals in Sanremo, to singer Franco Battiato, to melted gelato.

In the video for the song, created by La Blogothèque and directed by Colin Solal Cardo in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, Phoenix’s Thomas Mars abandons his guided tour of the Teatro Bibiena to sneak off and perform with his bandmates Christian Mazzalai, Laurent Brancowitz and Deck D’Arcy, around the stage, in the corridors and boxes of the theater—all shot live on 35mm film in one continuous shot.

But the real star of the video is the Teatro Bibiena itself. It’s a stunningly beautiful Baroque theater in the Italian town of Mantua. Measuring just 425 square meters, it seats about 300 people—less than a tenth of New York’s famous Carnegie Hall. Its surprisingly small, bell-shaped space is decorated with a wooden geometric ceiling, dozens of arched boxes and monochrome frescoes. Originally intended as an academic lecture hall when it was built, in the 1760s, guests soon realized that the space had amazing acoustics, and it was then used to house music and theater performances. A 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart even played there!

Phoenix hero

Take a look around the theatre yourself with Street View or browse through the history of this cultural gem on Google Arts & Culture.

Phoenix
Deck D’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai, Thomas Mars and Laurent Brancowitz of Phoenix

Ti Amo Italy: a historic theater takes center stage in a new music video

“Ti Amo.” I love you. The new song from French synth-pop stars Phoenix. The title song from their recently released album “Ti Amo” is a love letter to Italy: from festivals in Sanremo, to singer Franco Battiato, to melted gelato.

In the video for the song, created by La Blogothèque and directed by Colin Solal Cardo in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, Phoenix’s Thomas Mars abandons his guided tour of the Teatro Bibiena to sneak off and perform with his bandmates Christian Mazzalai, Laurent Brancowitz and Deck D’Arcy, around the stage, in the corridors and boxes of the theater—all shot live on 35mm film in one continuous shot.

Phoenix - Ti Amo (Live in Teatro Bibiena, Mantova)

But the real star of the video is the Teatro Bibiena itself. It’s a stunningly beautiful Baroque theater in the Italian town of Mantua. Measuring just 425 square meters, it seats about 300 people—less than a tenth of New York’s famous Carnegie Hall. Its surprisingly small, bell-shaped space is decorated with a wooden geometric ceiling, dozens of arched boxes and monochrome frescoes. Originally intended as an academic lecture hall when it was built, in the 1760s, guests soon realized that the space had amazing acoustics, and it was then used to house music and theater performances. A 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart even played there!

Phoenix hero

Take a look around the theatre yourself with Street View or browse through the history of this cultural gem on Google Arts & Culture.

Phoenix
Deck D’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai, Thomas Mars and Laurent Brancowitz of Phoenix