Tag Archives: Public Policy

The courage to change: sharing resources for recovery

I didn't know what recovery meant until a friend asked me if I was still "in recovery." Confused, I responded, “Yes, I’m still not drinking, if that's what you mean.” I know now what I didn’t know then: Recovery means life after substance abuse. It means having a clear mind and a healthy body. It means having the foresight to say no to alcohol. It means having the mental clarity to thrive at work and the desire to live a fuller, happier, complete life. 

As someone who has struggled with addiction and embarked on a journey toward recovery, I am so proud that Google is marking National Recovery Month with a new site, Recover Together. I participate in a recovery group at Google and know how important it is for this community to be connected. As part of Google’s ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis, today we’re taking an additional step to support those in recovery.

Too many of us have experienced firsthand the devastating impact of addiction—with our friends, colleagues, family members and loved ones. From the first time I filled my water bottle with alcohol and brought it to school at only 14 years old, to the many times I blacked out and woke up in the back seat of my car in surprising locations, I know how deeply addiction affected my life and worried my family.

More than 21 million Americans struggle with substance use. But it is treatable: An estimated 1 out of 14 American adults is in recovery. In fact, people come to Google every day to seek information on addiction treatment, prevention and recovery. Just last month, we saw an all-time high in search interest for “rehab near me,” “addiction treatment near me” and “how to help an addict.”

Top searched questions on addiction

Starting today, you can come to Google to find recovery resources all in one place, beginning with a video series from those in recovery. I felt less alone when hearing others share their stories, and I am grateful to be able to do the same here.

Recovery locator tool

Our new Recovery Locator Tool in Maps. 

We’re also launching two new Google Maps locator tools that will connect people with crucial recovery resources, including: 

  • Recovery Locator ToolA map with locations of more than 83,000 recovery support meetings such as AA, NA, Al-Anon and SmartRecovery, and other services such as school-based and family support. These take place at more than 33,000 community centers, churches, and other spaces—put in your address and you’ll see many recovery services are in your area or wherever you’re traveling.

  • Naloxone Locator ToolA special locator tool will show you locations where you can get Naloxone, the life-saving opioid overdose-reversal drug, without a prescription. All you have to do is type “Naloxone near me” or “Narcan near me” into the search bar in the tool. It already includes 20,000 pharmacies (including CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens) in 50 states, and we’ll continue to add local clinics and independent pharmacies. The site will also have more information about the availability and life-saving capability of this medication. Soon, these locations will also be searchable directly in Google Maps.

Finding recovery is a personal journey, and I am so grateful to work for a company that is making resources available to those who need them. In addition to these new tools, the site points to many other resources for those seeking treatment, including a self-assessment screener from the National Institute of Drug Abuse and state-specific Helpline resources and hotlines. 

To anyone at the beginning stages of recovery: This process is hard and tiring and challenging and you do not need to figure this all out alone. From the moment I first connected to the Employee Assistance Program counselor at Google who helped me confront the reality of my addiction, my life has changed in ways that at one time seemed unimaginable. I teach yoga. I run marathons. My life has been enriched by others in the recovery community. My sorrow has been replaced with a joy I never thought possible. And today, my hope is that anyone seeking recovery can find the same help and resources through Google I wanted so many years ago. Recovery is difficult, and it is so much better when we’re all in it together.

Google’s services create choice for consumers, and spur innovation in the U.S.

Google's services help people, create more choice, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the United States. Google is one of America’s top spenders on research and development, making investments that spur innovation: Things that were science fiction a few years ago are now free for everyone—translating any language instantaneously, learning about objects by pointing your phone, getting an answer to pretty much any question you might have.


At the same time, it’s of course right that governments should have oversight to ensure that all successful companies, including ours, are complying with the law. The Department of Justice, for example, has announced that it’s starting a review of online platforms.


We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us. The DOJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.


We look forward to showing how we are investing in innovation, providing services that people want, and engaging in robust and fair competition.

Maintaining the integrity of our platforms

Protecting our users and the integrity of our platforms is essential to Google’s mission. My team works with others across Google to detect phishing and hacking attempts, identify influence operations and protect users from digital attacks.

When identifying and preventing threats, we exchange information with industry partners and law enforcement, and also apply our own internal investigative tools as well as intelligence from third parties.

Earlier this week, as part of our ongoing efforts to combat coordinated influence operations, we disabled 210 channels on YouTube when we discovered channels in this network behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.

We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations.

Separately, we are continuing our work to protect users against online security threats. This week, Google announced that we have taken action to protect users in Kazakhstan after credible reports that its citizens were required to download and install a government-issued certificate on all devices and in every browser. This certificate enabled the government to decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords.

These actions are part of our continuing efforts to protect the integrity of our platforms and the security and privacy of our users. Each month, our Threat Analysis Group sends more than 4,000 warnings to our users about attempts by government-backed attackers or other illicit actors to infiltrate their accounts. This is the warning we send if we detect such an attempt:

Security alert

In addition to identifying and detecting the source of threats, we also integrate the most advanced security measures into all of our products so that users are protected automatically. To that end, this month we announced an expansion of the Advanced Protection Program to Chrome to provide extra security for that program’s users when they’re downloading files online. We also just introduced that program as a beta for enterprise customers. Our ​improving ​technology has also enabled ​us to ​significantly ​decrease ​the ​volume ​of ​phishing ​email, and we've rolled out significant protections in Gmail that detect and block over 99.8 percent of attachment malware.

Our teams will continue to identify bad actors, terminate their accounts, and share relevant information with law enforcement and others in the industry.

It’s time for a new international tax deal

Finance ministers from the world’s largest economies recently came together and agreed on the need for the most significant reforms to the global tax system in a century. That’s great news.

We support the movement toward a new comprehensive, international framework for how multinational companies are taxed. Corporate income tax is an important way companies contribute to the countries and communities where they do business, and we would like to see a tax environment that people find reasonable and appropriate.

While some have raised concerns about where Google pays taxes, Google’s overall global tax rate has been over 23 percent for the past 10 years, in line with the 23.7 percent average statutory rate across the member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Most of these taxes are due in the United States, where our business originated, and where most of our products and services are developed. The rest we paid in the roughly fifty countries around the world where we have offices helping to sell our services.

We’re not alone in paying most of our corporate income tax in our home country. That allocation  reflects long-standing rules about how corporate profits should be split among various countries. American companies pay most of their corporate taxes in the United States—just as German, British, French and Japanese firms pay most of their corporate taxes in their home countries. 

For over a century, the international community has developed treaties to tax foreign firms in a coordinated way. This framework has always attributed more profits to the countries where products and services are produced, rather than where they are consumed. But it’s time for the system to evolve, ensuring a better distribution of tax income.

The United States, Germany, and other countries have put forward new proposals for modernizing tax rules, with more taxes paid in countries where products and services are consumed. We hope governments can develop a consensus around a new framework for fair taxation, giving companies operating around the world clear rules that promote a sensible business investment.

The need for modernization isn’t limited to the technology sector. Both the OECD and a group of EU experts have concluded that the wider economy is “digitizing,” creating a need for broad-based reform of current rules. Almost all multinational companies use data, computers, and internet connectivity to power their products and services. And many are seeking ways to integrate these technologies, creating “smart” appliances, cars, factories, homes and hospitals. 

But even as this multilateral process is advancing, some countries are considering going it alone, imposing new taxes on foreign companies. Without a new, comprehensive and multilateral agreement, countries might simply impose discriminatory unilateral taxes on foreign firms in various sectors. Indeed, we already see such problems in some of the specific proposals that have been put forward.   

That kind of race to the bottom would create new barriers to trade, slow cross-border investment, and hamper economic growth. We’re already seeing this in a handful of countries proposing new taxes on all kinds of goods—from software to consumer products—that involve intellectual property. Specialized taxes on a handful of U.S. technology companies would do little more than claim taxes that are currently owed in the U.S., heightening trade tensions. But if governments work together, more taxes can be paid where products and services are consumed, in a coordinated and mutually acceptable way. This give-and-take is needed to ensure a better, more balanced global tax system.

We believe this approach will restore confidence in the international tax system and promote more cross-border trade and investment. We strongly support the OECD’s work to end the current uncertainty and develop new tax principles. We call on governments and companies to work together to accelerate this reform and forge a new, lasting, and global agreement.


Oversight frameworks for content-sharing platforms

A range of governments, tech platforms, and civil society are focused on how best to deal with illegal and problematic online content. There’s broad agreement on letting people create, communicate, and find information online, while preventing people from misusing content-sharing platforms like social networks and video-sharing sites.

We’ve been working on this challenge for years, using both computer science tools and human reviewers to identify and stop a range of online abuse, from“get rich quick” schemes to disinformation to child sexual abuse material. We respond promptly to valid notices of specific illegal content, and we prohibit other types of content on various different services. A mix of people and technology helps us identify inappropriate content and enforce our policies, and we continue to improve our practices. Earlier this year we issued anin-depth review of how we combat disinformation, and YouTube continues to regularly update its Community Guidelines Enforcement Report.

Tackling this problem is a shared responsibility. Many laws, covering everything from consumer protection to defamation to privacy, already govern online content. Safe harbors and Good Samaritan laws for online platforms support the free flow of information, innovation, and economic growth, while giving platforms the legal certainty they need to combat problematic content. Over the internet’s history, many countries have not only established criteria to qualify for safe harbors, but also developed codes of practice (like the European Union’s Code of Conduct On Countering Illegal Hate Speech and Code of Practice on Disinformation). And companies have worked together, as with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a coalition sharing information on curbing online terrorism. Approaches continue to evolve—for instance, earlier this month we joined other companies and countries in signing the Christchurch Call to Action To Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online.

We’ve previously shared our experiences in order to promote smart regulation in areas like privacy, artificial intelligence, and government surveillance, and I recently wrote about specific legal frameworks for combating illegal content online. In that spirit, we are offering some ideas for approaching oversight of content-sharing platforms:

Clarity - Content-sharing platforms are working to develop and enforce responsible content policies that establish baseline expectations for users and articulate a clear basis for removal of content as well as for suspension or closure of accounts. But it’s also important for governments to draw clear lines between legal and illegal speech, based on evidence of harm and consistent with norms of democratic accountability and international human rights. Without clear definitions, there is a risk of arbitrary or opaque enforcement that limits access to legitimate information.

Suitability - It’s important for oversight frameworks to recognize the different purposes and functions of different services. Rules that make sense for social networks, video-sharing platforms, and other services primarily designed to help people share content with a broad audience may not be appropriate for search engines, enterprise services, file storage, communication tools, or other online services, where users have fundamentally different expectations and applications. Different types of content may likewise call for different approaches.

Transparency - Meaningful transparency promotes accountability. We launched our first Transparency Report more than eight years ago, and we continue to extend our transparency efforts over time. Done thoughtfully, transparency can promote best practices, facilitate research, and encourage innovation, without enabling abuse of processes.

Flexibility - We and other tech companies have pushed the boundaries of computer science in identifying and removing problematic content at scale. These technical advances require flexible legal frameworks, not static or one-size-fits-all mandates. Likewise, legal approaches should recognize the varying needs and capabilities of startups and smaller companies.

Overall quality - The scope and complexity of modern platforms requires a data-driven approach that focuses on overall results rather than anecdotes. While we will never eliminate all problematic content, we should recognize progress in making that content less prominent. Reviews under the European Union’s codes on hate speech and disinformation offer a useful example of assessing overall progress against a complex set of goals.

Cooperation - International coordination should strive to align on broad principles and practices. While there is broad international consensus on issues like child sexual abuse imagery, in other areas individual countries will make their own choices about the limits of permissible speech, and one country should not be able to impose its content restrictions on another.

The recent Christchurch Call is a powerful reminder of what we can do when a range of stakeholders work together to address the challenges of online content. The internet has expanded access to information, bringing incredible benefits to people around the world. And as with any new information technology, societies and cultures are developing new social norms, institutions, and laws to address new challenges and opportunities. We look forward to contributing to that extraordinarily important project.

Presenting search app and browser options to Android users in Europe

People have always been able to customize their Android devices to suit their preferences. That includes personalizing the design, installing any apps they want and choosing which services to use as defaults in apps like Google Chrome.

Following the changes we made to comply with the European Commission's ruling last year, we’ll start presenting new screens to Android users in Europe with an option to download search apps and browsers.  

These new screens will be displayed the first time a user opens Google Play after receiving an upcoming update. Two screens will surface: one for search apps and another for browsers, each containing a total of five apps, including any that are already installed. Apps that are not already installed on the device will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order.

Android screen

An illustration of how the screens will look. The apps shown will vary by country.

Users can tap to install as many apps as they want. If an additional search app or browser is installed, the user will be shown an additional screen with instructions on how to set up the new app (e.g., placing app icons and widgets or setting defaults). Where a user downloads a search app from the screen, we’ll also ask them whether they want to change Chrome's default search engine the next time they open Chrome.

Chrome

The prompt in Google Chrome to ask the user whether they want to change their default search engine.

The screens are rolling out over the next few weeks and will apply to both existing and new Android phones in Europe.

These changes are being made in response to feedback from the European Commission. We will be evolving the implementation over time.  

USMCA: A trade framework for the digital age

When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1992, the global economy and the world looked a lot different than they do today. There was no such thing as a web search engine. Most people didn't know what email was (let alone use it). And to participate in international trade, a business needed big financial resources, offices and staff around the world, and lots of fax machines.

Thanks to the internet, that's all changed. Today, even the smallest of businesses can be global players and have customers in every corner of the world. Using the internet and online tools, the family-run Missouri Star Quilt Company has built an international business by sharing quilting how-to videos on YouTube, and the social impact brand Sword & Plough has sold thousands of bags and accessories globally that support veteran jobs.

The web has fundamentally changed not only how we trade, but also who trades. Small businesses using online tools are five times more likely to export than their offline counterparts. U.S. manufacturers are now the leading exporters of products and services online.

That’s why we need trade agreements that reflect the reality of today's economy. NAFTA references “telegrams” multiple times, but doesn’t even mention the internet. In contrast, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) includes a comprehensive set of digital trade provisions that keep the internet open, and protect the businesses and consumers that rely on it:

  • Trusted infrastructure: USMCA promotes an open and secure global technical infrastructure that supports a new kind of trade. For example, the agreement prohibits the U.S., Mexico and Canada from requiring that data be stored and replicated locally, reducing the cost of doing business in other countries and ensuring that data isn’t vulnerable to attack.

  • Innovation-enabling rules: USMCA promotes the open online framework that’s been key to the success of the U.S. internet economy. This framework both allows for platform-based trade, and also empowers internet platforms to combat harmful content online and fight piracy.

  • Protecting data: Consumers’ privacy should be protected no matter what country an individual or business is located in, and USMCA reflects this important principle. The agreement promotes strong privacy laws and cybersecurity standards to protect people’s data.

  • Access to information: USMCA limits government restrictions on information flow across borders, recognizing that wide availability of information leads to more trade and economic growth. The agreement also encourages governments to release non-sensitive data in an open and machine-readable format, so companies of all sizes have the opportunity to build commercial applications and services with public information.

  • Modernizing trade: Finally, USMCA prohibits our trading partners from imposing customs duties on things like e-books, videos, music, software, games and apps—ensuring consumers can continue to enjoy free or low-cost digital products.

USMCA will establish a strong framework to promote the new digital economy, and will unlock new sources of opportunity, creativity and job growth in North America. We look forward to seeing the agreement approved and implemented in a way that allows everyone to benefit from a free and open internet.

Supporting choice and competition in Europe

For nearly a decade, we’ve been in discussions with the European Commission about the way some of our products work. Throughout this process, we’ve always agreed on one thing一that healthy, thriving markets are in everyone’s interest.

A key characteristic of open and competitive markets一and of Google’s products一is constant change. Every year, we make thousands of changes to our products, spurred by feedback from our partners and our users. Over the last few years, we’ve also made changes一to Google Shopping; to our mobile apps licenses; and to AdSense for Search一in direct response to formal concerns raised by the European Commission.  

Since then, we’ve been listening carefully to the feedback we’re getting, both from the European Commission, and from others. As a result, over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to our products in Europe.

Since 2017, when we adapted Google Shopping to comply with the Commission’s order, we’ve made a number of changes to respond to feedback. Recently, we’ve started testing a new format that gives direct links to comparison shopping sites, alongside specific product offers from merchants.  

On Android phones, you’ve always been able to install any search engine or browser you want, irrespective of what came pre-installed on the phone when you bought it. In fact, a typical Android phone user will usually install around 50 additional apps on their phone.

After the Commission’s July 2018 decision, we changed the licensing model for the Google apps we build for use on Android phones, creating new, separate licenses for Google Play, the Google Chrome browser, and for Google Search. In doing so, we maintained the freedom for phone makers to install any alternative app alongside a Google app.

Now we’ll also do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones. This will involve asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use.

We’ve always tried to give people the best and fastest answers一whether direct from Google, or from the wide range of specialist websites and app providers out there today.  These latest changes demonstrate our continued commitment to operating in an open and principled way.

Source: Android


Doing our part to share open data responsibly

This past weekend marked Open Data Day, an annual celebration of making data freely available to everyone. Communities around the world organized events, and we’re taking a moment here at Google to share our own perspective on the importance of open data. More accessible data can meaningfully help people and organizations, and we’re doing our part by opening datasets, providing access to APIs and aggregated product data, and developing tools to make data more accessible and useful.

Responsibly opening datasets

Sharing datasets is increasingly important as more people adopt machine learning through open frameworks like TensorFlow. We’ve released over 50 open datasets for other developers and researchers to use. These include YouTube 8M, a corpus of annotated videos used externally for video understanding; the HDR+ Burst Photography dataset, which helps others experiment with the technology that powers Pixel features like Portrait Mode; and Open Images, along with the Open Images Extended dataset which increases photo diversity.

Just because data is open doesn’t mean it will be useful, however. First, a dataset needs to be cleaned so that any insights developed from it are based on well-structured and accurate examples. Cleaning a large dataset is no small feat; before opening up our own, we spend hundreds of hours standardizing data and validating quality. Second, a dataset should be shared in a machine-readable format that’s easy for others to use, such as JSON rather than PDF. Finally, consider whether the dataset is representative of the intended content. Even if data is usable and representative of some situations, it may not be appropriate for every application. For instance, if a dataset contains mostly North American animal images, it may help you classify a deer, but not a giraffe. Tools like Facets can help you analyze the makeup of a dataset and evaluate the best ways to put it to use. We’re also working to build more representative datasets through interfaces like the Crowdsource application. To guide others’ use of your own dataset, consider publishing a data card which denotes authorship, composition and suggested use cases (here’s an example from our Open Images Extended release).

Making data findable and useful

It’s not enough to just make good data open, though--it also needs to be findable. Researchers, developers, journalists and other curious data-seekers often struggle to locate data scattered across the web’s thousands of repositories. Our Dataset Search tool helps people find data sources wherever they’re hosted, as long as the data is described in a way that search engines can locate. Since the tool launched a few months ago, we’ve seen the number of unique datasets on the platform double to 10 million, including contributions from the U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal Reserve, the European Data Portal, the World Bank and government portals from every continent.

What makes data useful is how easily it can be analyzed. Though there’s more open data today, data scientists spend significant time analyzing it across multiple sources. To help solve that problem, we’ve created Data Commons. It’s a knowledge graph of data sources that lets users  treat various datasets of interest—regardless of source and format—as if they are all in a single local database. Anyone can contribute datasets or build applications powered by the infrastructure. For people using the platform, that means less time engineering data and more time generating insights. We’re already seeing exciting use cases of Data Commons. In one UC Berkeley data science course taught by Josh Hug and Fernando Perez, students used Census, CDC and Bureau of Labor Statistics data to correlate obesity levels across U.S. cities with other health and economic factors. Typically, that analysis would take days or weeks; using Data Commons, students were able to build high-fidelity models in less than an hour. We hope to partner with other educators and researchers—if you’re interested, reach out to collaborate@datacommons.org.

Balancing trade-offs

There are trade-offs to opening up data, and we aim to balance various sensitivities with the potential benefits of sharing. One consideration is that broad data openness can facilitate uses that don’t align with our AI Principles. For instance, we recently made synthetic speech data available only to researchers participating in the 2019 ASVspoof Challenge, to ensure that the data can be used to develop tools to detect deepfakes, while limiting misuse.

Extreme data openness can also risk exposing user or proprietary information, causing privacy breaches or threatening the security of our platforms. We allow third party developers to build on services like Maps, Gmail and more via APIs, so they can build their own products while user data is kept safe. We also publish aggregated product data like Search Trends to share information of public interest in a privacy-preserving way.

While there can be benefits to using sensitive data in controlled and principled ways, like predicting medical conditions or events, it’s critical that safeguards are in place so that training machine learning models doesn’t compromise individual privacy. Emerging research provides promising new avenues to learn from sensitive data. One is Federated Learning, a technique for training global ML models without data ever leaving a person’s device, which we’ve recently made available open-source with TensorFlow Federated. Another is Differential Privacy, which can offer strong guarantees that training data details aren’t inappropriately exposed in ML models. Additionally, researchers are experimenting more and more with using small training datasets and zero-shot learning, as we demonstrated in our recent prostate cancer detection research and work on Google Translate.

We hope that our efforts will help people access and learn from clean, useful, relevant and privacy-preserving open data from Google to solve the problems that matter to them. We also encourage other organizations to consider how they can contribute—whether by opening their own datasets, facilitating usability by cleaning them before release, using schema.org metadata standards to increase findability, enhancing transparency through data cards or considering trade-offs like user privacy and misuse. To everyone who has come together over the past week to celebrate open data: we look forward to seeing what you build.

To help fight the opioid crisis, a new tool from Maps and Search

In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, with over 130 Americans dying every day from opioid-related drug overdoses.  Last month, we saw that search queries for “medication disposal near me” reached an all-time high on Google.

opioids_data

53 percent of prescription drug abuse starts with drugs obtained from family or friends, so we’re working alongside government agencies and nonprofit organizations to help people safely remove excess or unused opioids from their medicine cabinets. Last year, we partnered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for National Prescription Take Back Day by developing a Google Maps API  locator tool to help people dispose of their prescription drugs at temporary locations twice a year. With the help of this tool, the DEA and its local partners collected a record 1.85 million pounds of unused prescription drugs in 2018.

Today, we’re making it easier for Americans to quickly find disposal locations on Google Maps and Search all year round. A search for queries like “drug drop off near me” or “medication disposal near me” will display permanent disposal locations at your local pharmacy, hospital or government building so you can quickly and safely discard your unneeded medication.



opioid_gif

This pilot has been made possible thanks to the hard work of many federal agencies, states and pharmacies. Companies like Walgreens and CVS Health, along with state governments in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania have been instrumental in this project, contributing data with extensive lists of public and private disposal locations. The DEA is already working with us to provide additional location data to expand the pilot.

For this pilot, we also looked to public health authorities—like HHS—for ideas on how technology can help communities respond to the opioid crisis. In fact, combining disposal location data from different sources was inspired by a winning entry at the HHS’s Opioid Code-A-Thon held a year ago.

We’ll be working to expand coverage and add more locations in the coming months. To learn more about how your state or business can bring more disposal locations to Google Maps and Search, contact RXdisposal-data@google.com today.


Source: Google LatLong