Author Archives: Google Public Policy Blog

A new skills agenda for Europe: getting everyone digital

Succeeding online shouldn’t just be for the privileged few. We want all Europeans to benefit - and digital skills play a big role in this. Today, the European Commission launched its proposals for a new skills agenda and we welcome their plans. Digital skills, one focus area of the plans, make people more employable, are indispensable for many new jobs being created, and fuel economic growth.

At Google, we’re committed to ensuring Europeans have the right skills for this digital age. The process starts with projects like Digital Active in France, aimed at training young people looking for jobs. And we’ve partnered with more than 50 European universities to train students. Our initiatives across 25 European countries result in stories like the Italian Levaggi brothers, who have been making handcrafted chairs for over half a century and increased overseas exports by 30% in major markets after completing our digital skills training.

We’ve made a commitment to train 2 million Europeans in digital skills and are a proud member of the European Commission’s Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs. A rounded education should prepare young people for online life -- it's as essential as literacy and numeracy. And it should be accessible to everyone: we’re particularly pleased that more than 40% of participants in our online workshops so far have been women. And it’s not just for the young - for instance in The Netherlands, of the thousands of people that attended training sessions in Dutch cities, over half are older than 45 years.

We believe all this dovetails with the aims set out by the European Commission. Europe is looking to the future, and good digital skills give people the tools to excel in their jobs, start their own businesses and fully participate in contemporary life.

As emphasized in this recent report by BCG, we need to get better at matching the skills of the workforce with the skills required in new jobs. That is key to making the most out of the digital opportunity. We want to contribute to more stories like the ones above, and are creating various programmes to nurture them. We welcome the Commission's proposals and look forward to working with the next generation of digitally-skilled Europeans.

Innovating for a Cleaner Energy Future

Energy ministers from around the globe visited the Bay Area this week for their first meeting following the signing of historic climate change agreements in France last year. The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) is an annual meeting of energy ministers and other high-level delegates from 23 of the world’s largest economies and the EU to discuss collaboration on low-carbon economy solutions. The focus of this year’s CEM was to discuss how to achieve the goals set in the Paris climate change deal as well as learn how innovations coming out of Silicon Valley are tackling the issue head on.

Hosted by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a number of ministers embarked on a fact finding mission that included Google, where they came to learn first hand about our commitment to clean energy and sustainability.

Google’s Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure Urs Hölzle told the group that renewable energy is critical for businesses like ours -- from powering our data centers to our products and services. “Having pioneered some of the first corporate renewable power purchasing back in 2010-2011, we’re excited to see that this is becoming business-as-usual for companies everywhere. And at Google we continue to be committed to 100% renewable energy because this makes good business sense and is the right thing to do for the planet and for our users.”

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz who led the visit to Google was joined by ministers and officials from countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Chile, India, Indonesia, and South Africa.

The CEM group had the opportunity to see at first hand a number of projects aimed at everything from helping people make smart choices about solar power to how we power our data centers with renewable energy.

At Google, we’ve made a long-term commitment to power 100% of our operations with renewable energy. To that end, we’ve purchased more than 2 gigawatts of renewable energy to date, making us the world’s largest non-utility purchaser of renewables.

In an effort to build on this week’s momentum, the CEM launched a campaign that will promote solutions that enable more companies to purchase renewable power. Google is pleased to join this effort by agreeing to host a forum later this year for national governments, renewable energy buyers and suppliers, NGOs, and other interested groups to look for ways to further unlock corporate renewable energy demand in CEM countries.

Our commitment to fighting illegal hate speech online

In the offline world, it’s usually clear what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Those boundaries are just as important online, which is why today, together with the European Commission, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter we signed a Code of Conduct which will help combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe.

We’re committed to tackling this important issue. We have always prohibited illegal hate speech on our platforms, and we have Community Guidelines that set the rules of the road on YouTube, including prohibitions on hate speech, terrorist recruitment and incitement to violence.

European Justice Commissioner Vĕra Jourová (center) signed the Code of Conduct, as did representatives from (l to r) Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft and Google

We’ve built efficient systems to review the majority of valid notifications in less than 24 hours, and to remove illegal content. We also cooperate with legal process so that governments are able to do their investigatory work and request removal of information that may violate local law. Beyond review processes, we also support NGOs working on counterspeech initiatives.

We welcome the Commission’s commitment to developing self-regulatory approaches to fighting hate speech online. We look forward to working with them and civil society groups to fight illegal content online, improve the experience online for our users, and ensure that there is no space on our platforms for hateful content.

A principle that should not be forgotten

Today, we published an op-ed by Kent Walker, Google’s global general counsel, in France’s Le Monde newspaper. We’re republishing the op-ed in English below. 

For hundreds of years, it has been an accepted rule of law that one country should not have the right to impose its rules on the citizens of other countries. As a result, information that is illegal in one country can be perfectly legal in others: Thailand outlaws insults to its king; Brazil outlaws negative campaigning in political elections; Turkey outlaws speech that denigrates Ataturk or the Turkish nation — but each of these things is legal elsewhere.  As a company that operates globally, we work hard to respect these differences. 

In March, the French data protection regulator (the CNIL) ordered that its interpretation of French law protecting the right to be forgotten should applynot just in France, but in every country in the world.   

The right to be forgotten - more accurately, a right to be delisted from search results - was created in a landmark 2014 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It lets Europeans delist certain links from search engine results generated by searches for their name, even when those links point to truthful and lawfully published information like newspaper articles or official government websites. 

Google complies with the European Court’s ruling in every country in the EU. Our approach reflects the criteria set out by the CJEU, as well as guidance from each country’s regulators and courts about the nuances of their local data protection rules. Across Europe we’ve now reviewed nearly 1.5 million webpages, delisting around 40%. In France alone, we’ve reviewed over 300,000 webpages, delisting nearly 50%. 

Following feedback from European regulators, we recently expanded our approach, restricting access to delisted links on all Google Search services viewed from the country of the person making the request.  (We also remove the link from results on other EU country domains.) That means that if we detect you’re in France, and you search for someone who had a link delisted under the right to be forgotten, you won’t see that link anywhere on Google Search - regardless of which domain you use.  Anyone outside the EU will continue see the link appear on non-European domains in response to the same search query.  

The CNIL's latest order, however, requires us to go even further, applying the CNIL’s interpretation of French law to every version of Google Search globally. This would mean removing links to content - which may be perfectly legal locally - from Australia ( to Zambia ( and everywhere in between, including

As a matter of both law and principle, we disagree with this demand. We comply with the laws of the countries in which we operate. But if French law applies globally, how long will it be until other countries - perhaps less open and democratic - start demanding that their laws regulating information likewise have global reach?  This order could lead to a global race to the bottom, harming access to information that is perfectly lawful to view in one’s own country. For example, this could prevent French citizens from seeing content that is perfectly legal in France. This is not just a hypothetical concern. We have received demands from governments to remove content globally on various grounds -- and we have resisted, even if that has sometimes led to the blocking of our services. 

In defense of this foundational principle of international law, we today filed our appeal of the CNIL’s order with France’s Supreme Administrative Court, the Conseil d’Etat. We look forward to the Court’s review of this case, which we hope will maintain the rights of citizens around the world to access legal information.

An Update to Our AdWords Policy on Lending Products

When ads are good, they connect people to interesting, useful brands, businesses and products. Unfortunately, not all ads are--some are for fake or harmful products, or seek to mislead users about the businesses they represent. We have an extensive set of policies to keep bad ads out of our systems - in fact in 2015 alone, we disabled more than 780 million ads for reasons ranging from counterfeiting to phishing. Ads for financial services are a particular area of vigilance given how core they are to people’s livelihood and well being.

In that vein, today we’re sharing an update that will go into effect on July 13, 2016: we’re banning ads for payday loans and some related products from our ads systems. We will no longer allow ads for loans where repayment is due within 60 days of the date of issue. In the U.S., we are also banning ads for loans with an APR of 36% or higher. When reviewing our policies, research has shown that these loans can result in unaffordable payment and high default rates for users so we will be updating our policies globally to reflect that.

This change is designed to protect our users from deceptive or harmful financial products and will not affect companies offering loans such as Mortgages, Car Loans, Student Loans, Commercial loans, Revolving Lines of Credit (e.g. Credit Cards).

According to Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, "This new policy addresses many of the longstanding concerns shared by the entire civil rights community about predatory payday lending. These companies have long used slick advertising and aggressive marketing to trap consumers into outrageously high interest loans - often those least able to afford it."

We’ll continue to review the effectiveness of this policy, but our hope is that fewer people will be exposed to misleading or harmful products.

This is for everyone: Google and Debating Europe discuss women and tech

The online world is at its best when it includes everyone. Currently, three billion of the world's seven billion people are connected to the internet; by 2020 it'll be five billion. If women aren't included as equal partners in this internet revolution, we all stand to lose. That's why this week, we teamed up with Debating Europe to host a Women & Tech event in Brussels with EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová, Google Europe’s President Matt Brittin, and wired women from around the world to highlight the impact of tech on women and of women on tech.

Women are still vastly underrepresented in the tech sector. We make up only 30% of the workforce in the ICT sector, and 19% of digital entrepreneurs -- compared to over 30% in other sectors. This disparity begins in education, where we have a lower participation rate worldwide in science, technology maths and engineering subjects.

EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová
EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová
Jourová set the tone, noting that we shouldn’t just talk about change, but make it happen. She told us about the vital work the European Commission is doing in this area, for instance by contributing to the Girls in ICT project. But there’s still a lot of work on the same basic point: we need to increase the number of women working in tech.

To solve a problem, you need data. Google's aim is to organise the world's information, and one of our speakers, Lucy Hurst, had plenty to share. She co-authored The Economist Intelligence Unit's report on the gender gap, which showed that in some countries inequality between men and women is getting worse.

Next, you need enthusiasm, and a will to change. One of the most inspiring speakers we heard from was Hayla Ghazal -- a Dubai-based YouTube star who was recently made a UN Change Ambassador. She mentioned that in one of her videos -- which offer a light-hearted look at everything from pre-exam panic to satirical differences between Arab and Western mothers -- she talked about her love of reading. Soon after, parents were thanking her for encouraging their daughters to read.

She also told us about the importance of having a diverse range of female role models worldwide; about how women can discover economic and educational opportunities online; and that everyone benefits when women around the world are connected, educated, and able to use their capabilities to the full.
From Google, we invited Yvonne Agyei, our Vice President of People Operations.We know the most exciting ideas come from unexplored places: that's why with hiring, we extend our reach beyond traditional universities, helping us discover the talent of underrepresented groups, including women. We also invest in partnerships across the continent to get young people excited about computer science, like Lero’s Summer Computing Camp for Girls in Ireland.

We’re pleased with the results, even though there’s clearly more to do. So far, 37% of Campus London community members are female, and 33% of our Madrid members are female. Our Campus Directors in London and Madrid - Sarah Drinkwater and Sofia Benjumea - are doing an amazing job in supporting greater diversity in local start-up communities. Of all the startups that make up our Campus community, 40% have a woman in the ‘founder’ team.

All of this fits in with our wider goal of training 2 million Europeans in digital skills -- in fact, 43% of participants in our digital workshops, so far, are women. They include Romanian folk blouse retailers and a cat grooming service in The Netherlands.

There's a lot to be optimistic about, but there's a great deal of work to be done as well. Great companies rely on great people -- and if women aren’t included, half the talent pool is absent. We want more stories like Mame Khary Diene, and her start-up BioEssence, more YouTubers like Hayla and her friends sharing their excitement about gender equality, and more coding workshops for girls like the ones run by Cheryl D. Miller of the Digital Leadership Institute. We look forward to training hundreds of thousands of girls and women in digital skills over the next few years.

Join Chancellor Merkel and President Obama on their Hannover Messe Tour

Google captures tour at Hannover Fair with 360-degree video technology

Last week marked the first visit of a U.S. President to the Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade show. Hannover is the birthplace of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who is credited with helping create binary code, the 0’s and 1’s that make up all things digital. It’s fitting that Google helped document President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tour of the Fair with several 360-degree cameras - a perfect way to combine digital and industry in front of an international audience. The video allows you join the delegation of the two heads of state for a virtual tour you can watch on YouTube, or by using a virtual-reality (VR) viewer like Google Cardboard

Before the tour gets started, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker explains the importance of the President’s trip to Germany and the collaboration between US and German business. It’s a great opportunity to see the Fair, take a look at the booths of economic development delegations from most of the fifty United States, and catch a glimpse of some of the happenings taking place in the middle of the Select USA partner country area.

One stop on the tour was the JobsOhio booth, where the President and Chancellor viewed a demo of a made-in-Ohio 3D printer. Take a look at the demo, and then turn around to see the press capturing their visit. The President’s Press Secretary Josh Earnest concludes the video in front of the Young Tech Enterprises show floor, where Google sponsored space for emerging startups to showcase their innovations.

Google was thrilled to host promising startups like: INFARM working to help cities with efficient food production; RELAYR providing an innovative enterprise middleware platform; WATLY combining a solar water purifier with power and connectivity; DAS TERMINAL offering digital banners and marketing solutions; KIWI providing hands-free access solutions for apartment buildings; UNU tackling the challenges of urban mobility through innovative e-scooters; and Beaconinside offering integrated next generation indoor location-based experiences.

So how'd we do VR? We used a mix of 4K cameras that are positioned to take pictures in every direction. We then used software in post-production to help stitch together the picture to transport you right into the action! The cameras were provided by our YouTube spaces in Berlin, London, and Paris in true European collaboration.

360-degree cameras and virtual reality are unique technologies to experience events like the Hannover trade show through a new perspective. If you couldn’t get to Hannover this year, seeing this incredible industrial fair in 360 might be the next best thing. We were thrilled to capture this special moment with two important world leaders -- and even more excited that we could share it with you!

Watch the full VR tour in English on YouTube, and in German on the Berliner Morgenpost website.

A Landmark Vote for Electronic Privacy

The House of Representatives’ unanimous (419-0) passage of the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699) is a decisive victory for Internet users, who deserve the highest privacy protections when governmental entities seek access to their data. The unanimous approval of the Email Privacy Act is a testament to the broad bipartisan support for this commonsense reform. Representatives Yoder (R-Kan.), Polis (D-Colo.), Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Conyers (D-Mich.) have been real leaders in helping to shepherd this important bill through the House of Representatives.

Enacted in 1986, ECPA makes distinctions that simply don’t match with what users reasonably should expect of privacy in 2016. An email, for example, may receive more robust privacy protections under ECPA depending on how old it is or whether it is in an opened or unopened state. Users don’t and shouldn’t expect that communications they send through or information they store with a provider will enjoy lower privacy protection based on these arbitrary and nonsensical distinctions.

The Email Privacy Act replaces the confusing array of rules that govern when the government can compel a provider to disclose user information with a simple warrant-for-content rule. In many ways, the Email Privacy Act is a modest, though important, codification of the status quo; it implements the 6th Circuit’s conclusion in 2010 that ECPA is unconstitutional to the extent it would permit the government to compel a service provider to disclose to the government a user’s electronic communications content without a warrant. This warrant-for-content rule has been observed by Google and other companies and the government alike since 2010.

The version of the Email Privacy Act that passed the House of Representatives today is the result of robust debate to address a broad array of competing concerns. We urge the Senate to move swiftly toward passage of this bill, and to reject further changes that would weaken the warrant-for-content rule reflected in the Email Privacy Act.

Working together to better protect children online

At Google we know that collaboration has been key to ensuring that our products and services offer families a safe and secure experience online, which is why we regularly work with NGOs, government and industry partners to empower parents and children with the tools and skills they need to make the most of the Internet. In previous years, we’ve held events bringing together NGOs from around Europe to discuss these important issues and explore opportunities for better partnership.  

This year, we are hosting our third Child Safety Summit in collaboration with Facebook. On April 14-15 in Dublin NGOs from 18 countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa  will join us to exchange best practices, discuss how we all can better protect children online, and work together to ensure that we anticipate and respond to the ever-changing needs that children have on the web. 

Since Google believes deeply in technology’s ability to unlock creativity, we work hard to ensure that parents and children have the tools and knowledge they need to make smart and responsible choices online. Google’s work falls into three distinct areas, all of which will be addressed at this year’s summit: product and feature launchesthat help ensure we provide offer families a safe and secure experience online, commitment and investment in the fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation online, and partnerships with NGOs on digital literacy in order to help build an informed and responsible generation of digital citizens.

Our ongoing partnerships with NGOs respond to local challenges and aim to have a lasting impact.

  • In the UK, we have launched Internet Legends, an interactive, in-school assembly for 8-11 year olds. In partnership with Parentzone, we are aiming to educate 10,000 primary school children from 40 schools across the country on online safety. Using the powerful and memorable Internet Legends code, we are working together to empower children with the tools they need to stay safe and act responsibly online.
  • In Spain, we partnered with FAD to launch an interactive game to promote safe and responsible use of the Internet by teens. The game focuses on building skills and fostering deeper understanding around privacy, security, copyright and best practices for safe & responsible behavior online. 12,000 Spanish students have participated so far, and we held an initial awards ceremony in the European Parliament to celebrate winners.
  • In France, we worked alongside e-Enfance and YouTube creators Rose Carpet to launch a campaign, #NonAuHarcèlement. The initial video was filmed in our YouTube Space in Paris and aims to facilitate a movement for teens to unite against online bullying and harassment.
  • In Italy, we launched a web safety and digital empowerment campaign with Altroconsumo, the largest consumer association in the country. Love the internet, safely offers practical, educational material to encourage users to create stronger passwords, enable features like Google SafeSearch, and take the Google Privacy Checkup.
We believe that companies like Google have a responsibility to not only ensure that our products and services offer the safest and most secure experiences possible, but that we also work alongside a wide range of stakeholders and industry partners to creatively and effectively raise awareness and offer support on these important issues.

Google unites with other tech companies to support US Clean Power Plan

Today Google, along with Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, filed a legal brief with the DC Circuit Court supporting theEnvironmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The CPP aims to accelerate the transition to cleaner sources of electricity and puts an emphasis on renewable energy development and energy efficiency. The plan has been put on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge.

Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have come together in this briefto offer our unique view as large consumers of energy. Collectively we used 10 million MWh of electricity last year, including at 50 data centers in 12 states. That means reliable and affordable electricity is integral to the continued growth and operation of all of our businesses and the services we offer to our users everywhere. We are all committed to sourcing our power in a sustainable way, and renewable energy makes good business sense for us all.   

At Google, we have been carbon neutral since 2007. We have signed contracts to purchase over 2GW of renewable energy — equivalent to taking nearly one million cars off the road — making us the largest non-utility renewable energy purchaser in the world. Just last year we signed the largest and most diverse purchase of renewable energy made by a non-utility company to power our data centers. The deal covers a series of new wind and solar projects around the world and takes us one step closer to our goal of powering 100% of our operations with clean energy. Above and beyond our own power purchases, we have also invested more than $2.5 billion in 22 other renewable projectsaround the world.

These efforts underline the seriousness of our commitment to renewables and we believe the CPP is an important step in the transition to a cleaner energy future. The message from our companies today is clear — we can meet the world’s future energy challenges in a way that drives innovation and growth while tackling climate change.