Author Archives: Amanda Storey

Building a safer internet, from Europe to Africa

Whether searching for answers in Antwerp or Abidjan, people expect Google services to be designed with their safety in mind. And that’s especially true for the one third of the world’s internet-connected population who reside in the countries of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 


That’s why the region is also home to a steadily growing number of Google investments in digital safety, and teams who specialize in keeping the internet more secure.

A second global safety hub in Europe

In 2019, we opened the first Google Safety Engineering Center (GSEC) in Munich, acknowledging Europe’s role as a global hub of privacy and security engineering at Google. There, we’ve developed popular privacy tools like Privacy Checkup, a raft of security protections in our Chrome browser and techniques, such as differential privacy, which help add state-of-the-art anonymization into core Google products. 


Last month, we opened another GSEC, this time in Dublin, which will be a hub for Google experts tackling the spread of illegal and harmful content, and a place where we can share this work with policymakers, researchers and regulators. Like our work on privacy, content safety is a priority that we reinforce with concrete action, led by experts in the field.

Keeping people’s information safe

When people trust us with their personal information, it’s our responsibility to keep it safe. And we know people are worried about threats like hacking and COVID-19-related scams, and increasingly demanding that companies keep their private information private. Searches for “phishing” reached record levels in the UK, Italy and Spain last year, and in Germany, searches for “how secure is my password” doubled from 2019 to 2020.

It’s clear that in order for the open web to sustain its continued growth as the most important place for independent creation and commerce, its privacy and security practices must keep up with changing expectations. That’s why we recently joined outside experts from Euroconsumers, a group of five national consumer organizations representing more than 1.5 million people, in releasing a new joint report that spotlighted related concerns among internet users in Italy, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. As many as 69% of respondents told us they think the amount of personal data collected online makes it difficult for them to protect their privacy, with 21% feeling in control of what personal data is collected about them.

In initiatives like our partnership with Euroconsumers and our brick-and-mortar investments in GSEC, our goal is both understanding and follow-through: informing improvements that we actually build. Our teams at GSEC Munich have already rolled out new tools and a redesign of Chrome’s privacy and security settings, making it easier to manage cookies and the most sensitive website permissions. And, like many, we are encouraged by promising progress so far in the Privacy Sandbox, an open initiative introduced by Chrome to support a privacy-first future for web advertising — one that can promote growth in the web in Europe and beyond.

Helping people with knowledge and trainings

But safety and privacy tools also aren’t worth anything without supporting people in using them, which is why we back our safety engineering efforts with significant funding for local and grassroots programs to promote safety best practices. 

So, today we are announcing a new partnership with Injaz Al-Arab, a non-profit organization that aims to empower young people with digital skills, so that we can deliver safety trainings at scale to students across the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Morocco.

Helping innovative nonprofits and social enterprises with Google’s resources has long been the focus of Google.org, which last year used the occasion of Safer Internet Day to announce the $1,000,000 Africa Online Safety Fund. Today, we’re announcing the recipients: 26 groups across nine countries in Africa who have been selected to develop and scale new and existing projects combating online vulnerabilities, disinformation and extremism. 

We know these kinds of efforts can bear fruit. Take a look at some of the stories we’ve shared today of the 29 grant recipients of the Google.org Impact Challenge for Safety in Europe. We’re proud of these efforts and see it as core to our safety mission to support brilliant organizations in all regions of the world.  

To learn more about our resources to help keep you and your family safer, please visit the Google Safety Center.

GSEC Dublin: A content responsibility center for Europe

Protecting people from harmful content and making our products safer for everyone is core to the work of many different teams across Google and YouTube. When it comes to the content on our platforms, we have a responsibility to safeguard the people and businesses using our products, and to do so with clear, transparent policies and processes.

Today, we’re announcing our second Google Safety Engineering Center (GSEC)—and our first focused on content responsibility—to be located in our European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Our first GSEC opened in Munich in 2019 and builds tools to protect users’ privacy and security. The new Dublin center will be a regional hub for Google experts working to tackle the spread of illegal and harmful content and a place where we can share this work with policymakers, researchers, and regulators.

Dublin is already a hub for our Trust and Safety teams in the region, comprising many different policy experts, specialists and engineers working to keep people safe online by using the latest technology and artificial intelligence. Europe has been leading many different safety efforts globally, and is home to teams working on everything from ad transparency and child safety to botnet research and violent extremism.

The new GSEC will provide additional transparency into this work and make it easier for  regulators, policymakers and researchers to gain a hands-on understanding of how we deal with content safety. It will also help everyone understand how we develop and enforce policies, how our anti-abuse technologies and early threat detection systems work, how we work with trusted flaggers, as well as our incident management processes and content moderation practices. Specifically:

  • Regulators: Through GSEC, regulators will be able to access more information about how our content moderation systems and other technologies work in practice, in a secure location that safeguards the confidentiality of user information. When fully operational, this will enable regulators and policymakers (under existing or upcoming legal frameworks like the Digital Services Act) to conduct inquiries, evaluate processes and engage in official fact finding.

  • Academics: GSEC Dublin will work with the wider academic community and civil society groups promoting safety online. This new center will enable us to engage more closely with researchers, NGOs and other external stakeholders about emerging trends and risks with the aim of improving safety for people online. This work will be done with the appropriate safeguards on confidentiality, user privacy and security. With the announcement of GSEC Dublin we’re also announcing our first partnership with the Irish Research Council funding academic scholarship and research into online safety.

  • Civil society: GSEC will build on existing initiatives within Google that bring to life our responsible-by-design approach. We will share this knowledge more widely through the publication of reports and insights on content responsibility. This work is already underway, and we recently published our white paper on content moderation and information quality.

Our Trust and Safety teams sit around the globe, and we have more than 20,000 people working in a variety of roles to help enforce our policies and moderate content. We also continue to invest in initiatives like transparency reports, proactive disclosures around coordinated influence operations and disinformation, as well as sharing information with researchers and supporting collaborations like Project Lumen to help users, academics and policymakers better understand how we manage content at scale.

We have a responsibility to keep people safe online and to protect our platforms and products from abuse. As we continue to invest and scale these efforts, we are committed to providing additional transparency into our processes and policies. The work of the GSEC for Content Responsibility will begin virtually, and we plan to open the physical center in Dublin as soon as it is safe to do so and COVID-19 restrictions allow.

Our work on the 2020 U.S. election

It’s been over a month since polls closed in the U.S. 2020 election, and more Americans voted in this election than in any recent Presidential race. In the months—and years—leading up to this cycle, our teams worked hard to create tools that help voters find authoritative information about the election, educate campaigns on how to connect with voters and equip them with best-in-class security features, and protect our platforms from abuse. 


After Election Day, as votes were still being counted, we continued this work to show timely election results from The Associated Press (AP) on Google. We also enforced a Sensitive Events ads policy after polls closed, temporarily pausing more than 5 million ads referencing the U.S. 2020 election, the candidates, or its outcome as election results were certified. This week, we are lifting this pause and allowing advertisers to continue running election-related ads on our platforms, as long as they comply with our global advertising policies.

Record numbers of voters engaged with Google tools

We know that people turn to Google to look for information on a variety of topics, and the U.S. 2020 election would be no different. In fact, this U.S. election cycle saw all-time highs in searches for civics-related topics. We worked to create and launch features that would help people find the information they needed to participate in the democratic process. We introduced several features to help voters find information about how to register and how to vote in their states, and as the election neared, we also helped people find polling and ballot drop off locations. Across our products, these features were seen nearly 500 million times. 


We worked with non-partisan, third-party data partners, such as Democracy Works, which aggregates official data directly from state and county election administrators, and we linked to state government official websites for more information. Using this data, we also made it easy for people to quickly find nearby voting locations in Google Maps, along with information about how far they were, how to get there, and voting hours. From mid-October through Election Day, we added more than 125,000 voting locations in Google Maps. 


We also showed “how to register” and “how to vote” reminders to all our U.S. users directly on Google Search, Maps and YouTube, to help everyone across the country find the information they needed to register to vote, find their voting locations, and cast their ballots. These reminders were seen over 2 billion times across our products. And starting on Election Day, we worked with the AP to provide real-time election results for relevant searches on Google. This results feature had more than six times the number of views in 2020 as in 2016. Additionally, YouTube linked to this results feature in its election results information panel, which was shown over 4.5 billion times.

How we helped educate and protect campaigns

We also focused on helping campaigns and elected officials effectively use Google and YouTube products to reach voters and on helping them enhance their election security. As part of our Civics Outreach Virtual Training Series, Google held 21 training sessions for over 900 candidates, campaigns, public officials, and nonprofit leaders. Overall, we held 45 group and individual trainings to help more than 2,900 election workers learn to use Google tools to amplify their message and better connect with voters through events like digital town halls, debates and virtual campaign rallies.


And as a part of our Election Cybersecurity Initiative with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, nearly 4,000 elected officials, secretaries of state, campaign staffers, political party representatives, and state election directors in all 50 states received training on ways to secure their information and protect their campaigns against cyberattacks. At the start of the 2020 election season, we partnered with Defending Digital Campaigns (DDC) to give any federal campaign access to free security keys—the strongest form of two-factor authentication. We helped DDC distribute more than 10,500 Advanced Protection kits. Now, we continue to educate campaigns and newly elected officials about digital security and encourage them to enroll in our Advanced Protection Program.

Protecting our platforms from abuse

In the years leading up to the 2020 election, we made numerous enhancements to protect the integrity of elections around the world and better secure our platforms: we introduced strict policies and restrictions around who can run election-related advertising on our platform; we launched comprehensive political ad libraries in the U.S., the UK, the European Union, India, Israel and New Zealand; we developed and implemented policies to prohibit election-related abuse such as voter suppression and deceptive practices on platforms like YouTube, Google Ads, Google Maps and Google Play; our Threat Analysis Group (TAG) launched a quarterly bulletin to provide regular updates on our work to combat coordinated influence operations across our platforms and flagged phishing attempts against the presidential campaigns this summer; and we worked closely with government agencies, including the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, and others companies to share information around suspected election interference campaigns. 


And long before any voting in this election started, our global Trust and Safety teams were already working through possible threat scenarios and abuse vectors related to the election. These teams work in a variety of roles to help develop and enforce our policies in an apolitical and non-partisan way, monitor our platforms for abuse, and protect users from everything from account hijackings and disinformation campaigns to misleading content and inauthentic activity. We estimate that we spent at least $1 billion over the past year on content moderation systems and processes. We continue to invest aggressively in this area.


The job of protecting our platforms from abuse is always a top priority, but especially during sensitive times like elections. Our election integrity work may not directly drive Google’s business, but it’s a crucial part of our responsibility to our users and to the democratic process. That’s why our teams are already looking at what's coming up next—including 2021 elections in the U.S., the Netherlands, Japan, Israel, Ecuador and many other countries.

Source: Search


Following the 2020 U.S. Election with Google

With just one week to go until Election Day in the U.S., we’re here to help you to navigate the voting process and follow results after the polls close. As they do every election, Americans are turning to Google to find information on voter registration, polling locations, election results and more.

As we look toward Election Day, we’re working with The Associated Press (AP) -- a trusted source of information on election results -- to provide authoritative results on Google. Similar to previous elections, when people come to Search and Assistant looking for information on election results they’ll find a dedicated feature with data provided by the AP. Simply search for “election results” and you’ll find real-time information on Google, for both federal and state level races, in more than 70 languages. You can also ask, “Hey Google, what are the current election results?” and Google Assistant will share information on mobile, smart speakers and Smart Displays.

AP Results Image

As we’ve done for previous election nights, we’ll feature real-time election night live streams from major news providers on YouTube and link to coverage from news sources on Google Search. You can read more here about how to follow the election on YouTube. You can also check out our 2020 US Election experience on Google News, which lets you follow national and local news, major interviews, and in-depth analysis so you can stay up to date and informed on Election Day and beyond.

In the many months leading up to Election Day, we have consistently focused our efforts on helping voters, protecting our platforms from abuse, and equipping campaigns. In advance of nationwide voter deadlines -- which varied significantly by state -- we helped make it easier for you to find your local deadlines, requirements and voting options. We were proud to partner with the nonpartisan National Voter Registration Day again this year to spread awareness about voter registration and make this information accessible and easy for you to find. On YouTube, we surfaced information panels to connect you with authoritative context about relevant election-related search results, including for searches about federal or presidential candidates, voter registration, and how to vote.

Through November 3rd, not only can you come to Google Search and Maps -- and ask Google Assistant -- for trusted information on how to vote; we’ve also made it even easier for you to find voting locations and ballot drop boxes near you. Just look for “voting locations near me” on Google Search or ask Google Assistant, “Hey Google, where do I vote?” and up-to-date results will surface.

Where to vote

Our global Trust and Safety teams and our Threat Analysis Group monitor our platforms around the clock for potential abuse. Over the past few years, we’ve made numerous changes to secure our platforms and the integrity of elections around the world. This year, we’ve further increased transparency around these efforts: we launched the quarterly Threat Analysis Group Bulletin to provide regular updates on our work to combat coordinated influence operations across our platforms; in June, we shared information about phishing attempts against the presidential campaigns; and just this month, we published the latest update on our efforts to thwart phishing attempts and disinformation campaigns. In addition to the work our own teams are doing, we’ve continued to meet regularly with law enforcement officials and other technology companies to share leads and threat information around suspected election interference. We will remain in close coordination in the days preceding and following the election. And given the possibility of delayed election results this year (and to limit the potential for ads to increase confusion post-election), we made the decision to enforce our Sensitive Events policy as soon as the polls close on November 3, which will temporarily pause ads referencing the 2020 election, the candidates, or its outcome.

In the many months leading up to Election Day, we’ve made it a priority to equip campaigns with the tools they need to strengthen their own security, protect themselves against digital attacks, and reach voters. When the 2020 primaries kicked off, we teamed up with the Defending Digital Campaigns to provide federal campaigns with free security keys, the strongest form of two-factor authentication. Even in the final days preceding the election, we will continue to educate campaigns about digital security and urge them to enroll in our Advanced Protection Program.

As our Election Cybersecurity Initiative with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School comes to an end, we’re proud to report that the program’s nonpartisan trainers have educated nearly 4,000 participants in all 50 states -- including elected officials, secretaries of state, campaign staffers, political party representatives, state election directors and more -- on the importance of protecting their campaigns against cyberattacks. Moreover, we’ve seen campaigns use YouTube to reach voters in myriad ways over the course of this election cycle: through live-streamed press conferences and town halls, interactive conversations through Stories and Community, and interviews with creators across the political spectrum.

Whether you’ve already voted, are searching for a drop box, or plan to vote in-person at the polls next week, we’re here to help you find authoritative information, vote, and follow live results as soon as the polls close on Election Day.

An update on our 2020 U.S. election efforts

As we approach the US election on November 3, we’re helping voters access authoritative information about the election, enhancing our efforts around election security and transparency, and connecting people to the democratic process. We wanted to provide an update on our work.

Helping voters access authoritative information

We just launched two features in Google Search with detailed information about how to register and how to vote. We know election deadlines and requirements vary by state, so no matter where you live, you can search for “how to register to vote”—and you’ll find information about voter registration in your state. That includes deadlines, registration options, and an easy way to check the status of your registration. 


When you search for “how to vote,” you’ll find details about how you can vote in your state—such as ID requirements, registration and voting deadlines, and guidance for different means of voting, like in person or mail. We work with non-partisan, third-party data partners, such as Democracy Works, which aggregates official data directly from state and county election administrators, and we link to your state government’s official website for more information.

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Enhancing election security and transparency

As we’ve detailed, we’re making a very significant investment in election security. Our Threat Analysis Group (TAG) and our Trust and Safety teams work together to identify and prevent government-backed attacks against Google and our users. The Threat Analysis Group has flagged phishing attempts we’ve identified against campaigns and continues to share regular updates about actions we take against coordinated influence campaigns on our platforms. 

To stay ahead of threats, we meet regularly with government agencies responsible for election integrity and other technology companies to discuss trends. As we reiterated yesterday, this coordination is critical and will continue through the election. 

We’ve seen incredible engagement in our election security trainings with USC’s Annenberg School. In fact, the nonpartisan trainers have already trained over 3,000 campaigns and election officials on how to prevent digital attacks, phishing campaigns and hacking attempts—and they plan to complete sessions in all 50 states by September. 

Additionally, to help people involved in campaigns, we recently launched enhanced security for Google accounts to complement our Advanced Protection Program, offering additional safeguards for G Suite and Gmail users during the election season. People can easily self-nominate to receive additional security checks for active threats and suspicious activity, like hacking and phishing.


Last year, we introduced new policies for election ads and limited the ways political campaigns can target their ads—taking more steps to eliminate micro-targeting of voters. To build on these efforts, we recently expanded our policies - such as prohibiting ads that disseminate illegally obtained materials. We also enforce policies to prohibit content on our platforms that undermines trust in the democratic process, like calls to participate in voter fraud or false claims around the U.S. census or election results. We’re also updating our Political Ads Transparency Report to include more information about the election ads that run on our platform, new ways to sort campaign spending, and more frequent updates—giving people detailed insight into the political ads that run on Google and YouTube.

Connecting people to the democratic process

With both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions set to be virtual, we want to make sure you can still follow these historic events at home. You can watch next week’s Democratic National Convention live on YouTube, and you can tune in to the Republican National Convention on YouTube the following week. This continues our longstanding tradition of live-streaming major political events—including State of the Union addresses, debates and conventions. YouTube aims to keep you virtually connected to the political activities this election season, which you can read more about here

We’ll also be updating our2020 Elections experience on Google News, to include extensive coverage of major issues, live streams of major events, and reminders of registration and voting timelines.

As we approach November’s election, we will continue to ensure that all of our products are built -- and our policies are enforced—in a fair, objective, and nonpartisan way, without regard to political ideology. Our platforms have empowered people and organizations from across the political spectrum, giving them a voice and new ways to reach their audiences. We’ll continue to keep you updated on all of our work to support the 2020 U.S. election and other elections around the world.