Author Archives: Google Public Policy Blog

Bringing Internet Voices into Trade

The Internet is fundamentally transforming global trade.

When we think about trade, we're likely to picture container ships navigating the Panama Canal and large multinational companies with warehouses around the world.

However, trade today also looks like this: millions of small businesses reaching global markets with the touch of a button. Likewise, millions of artists, authors, developers, and publishers are creating apps, movies, music, books, and more for global audiences, on a growing number of platforms and digital outlets. Almost everyone with a smartphone, tablet or laptop is taking part in Internet-driven trade.

At the same time, large companies in sectors from advanced manufacturing to agriculture are using the Internet to transform how they do business.

Together, these changes are having a remarkable impact on trade. Data flows enabled by the Internet -- practically non-existent just 15 years ago -- now contribute to global economic growth more than the flow of goods.

Governments are rightly taking note of this transformation. In agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiators have started to address Internet issues. They are starting to recognize that restrictive Internet policies can damage trade just as much as high tariffs and quotas.

Trade agreements can be a force for good for the global free and open Internet. They can counter the balkanization or fragmentation of the Internet into disconnected local networks. They can promote access to information. And they can make it easier for a small startup to get off the ground, reach new markets, and challenge competitors anywhere across the globe.

For trade and Internet policy to work together, trade negotiators need to have input from the full range of Internet stakeholders. At the same time, Internet stakeholders need to start engaging in the trade policy process. Small businesses, startups, civil society groups, the Internet technical community, and everyday users all have a stake.

The bad news: the traditionally closed and complex nature of trade negotiations makes engagement by this broader range of stakeholders difficult.

The good news: key players increasingly see the need to increase participation and transparency.
  • Former trade negotiators are urging governments to “solicit public comments on contentious proposals” rather than relying on input only from a small group of cleared advisors. They worry that excessive secrecy is feeding into negative public perceptions of trade. 
  • Former White House staffers are putting forward ideas to build more open debate into trade policy development. 
  • Trade negotiators in the European Union and US are beginning to explore new approaches.
Increasing transparency is a win-win proposition. If we’ve learned anything from the Internet’s history, it’s that bringing more voices to the table can produce better outcomes for all. We look forward to continuing the conversation and working with the Internet and trade communities to build out these ideas.

Google, YouTube and Binge On

Last November, T-Mobile introduced a program called Binge On, which allows video services and users to reduce T-Mobile’s data charges by limiting streaming to a lower resolution that many users find acceptable for watching most videos on their phone screen.

The initial implementation of the Binge On program raised questions from both users and video services, including YouTube. For instance, we didn’t think it was clear how the program would be implemented for video services that were not included in the “free streaming” portion of the Binge On program. We also thought users needed more help to understand how the program worked and how to exercise their options.

Over the last several months, we raised these concerns with T-Mobile, and they’ve heard us and others who provided similar feedback. We’re glad T-Mobile will continue to improve the program for all users and video providers by:

  • Improving notice and choice for users: T-Mobile has been clarifying for users what ‘optimization’ means as well as the impact of turning Binge On on or off. And for those who want to turn it off, they’ve made it easier to do so -- rather than having to click through a series of menu items, users can now turn the setting off with an SMS short code and with two clicks from the T-Mobile app and one click from the site. Any user can toggle Binge On off and on, and the change will take effect within minutes -- which significantly improves the user experience. 
  • Improving information and choice for video services: While T-Mobile has always stated that any video service can join the program at no charge, prior to our discussions, video services were not given a choice about whether their streams would be managed by T-Mobile if they did not join the program. Going forward, any video service meeting traffic-identification requirements will be able to opt-out, and T-Mobile will stop including them in the Binge On program and will no longer modify their video streams. In addition, T-Mobile will now work with video services that wish to optimize their own streams, using an average data rate limit. This allows video services to offer users an improved video experience, even at lower data rates, by taking advantage of innovations such as video compression technology, benefiting T-Mobile, their customers, and video providers. 

We think these changes, which T-Mobile is making for all users and video providers on a non-preferential basis, can help ensure that the program works well for all users and the entire video ecosystem. As a result, YouTube and Google Play Movies & TV are participating in Binge On. Starting today, if you're a T-Mobile user with Binge On enabled, when you watch YouTube or a movie or TV show on Google Play, it won't count against your data cap. We hope our users enjoy this new option.

Adapting our approach to the European right to be forgotten

In the last few weeks, it has been widely reported that we will adapt our approach to delisting search results under the “right to be forgotten” in Europe, in response to discussions with regulators. We’ll be implementing the change next week.

The right to be forgotten — or, more accurately, the “right to delist” — was established by the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2014. It allows Europeans to ask search engines to delist certain links from the set of search results generated by a search query for their name.

At the moment, if someone submits a URL for delisting via our webform and we determine that their request meets the criteria set by the Court (the information to be delisted must be inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive, and not in the public interest), then we will delist the URL from the search results generated in response to a search for their name. Our current practice is to delist from all European versions of Google Search (like,,, etc) simultaneously.

Starting next week, in addition to our existing practice, we will also use geolocation signals (like IP addresses) to restrict access to the delisted URL on all Google Search domains, including, when accessed from the country of the person requesting the removal. We’ll apply the change retrospectively, to all delistings that we have already done under the European Court ruling.

So for example, let’s say we delist a URL as a result of a request from John Smith in the United Kingdom. Users in the UK would not see the URL in search results for queries containing [john smith] when searching on any Google Search domain, including Users outside of the UK could see the URL in search results when they search for [john smith] on any non-European Google Search domain.

We’re changing our approach as a result of specific discussions that we’ve had with EU data protection regulators in recent months. We believe that this additional layer of delisting enables us to provide the enhanced protections that European regulators ask us for, while also upholding the rights of people in other countries to access lawfully published information.

Since May 2014, we’ve worked hard to find the right balance as we implement the European Court’s ruling. Despite occasional disagreements, we’ve maintained a collaborative dialogue with data protection authorities throughout. We’re committed to continuing to work in this way.

Joining Together to Avoid a Troubling Legal Precedent

Today, Google joined a variety of technology companies to file an amicus brief in US federal court. Together, we are voicing concern about the use of a broad statute from the 18th century, the All Writs Act, to require companies to re-engineer important security features that protect people and their data.
We have tremendous respect for the challenges that law enforcement officials face as they work to keep people safe. However, while we support the government’s goals of thwarting terrorist and criminal acts, the implications of this case extend well beyond this particular investigation.

The key question is whether the government should be able to use the All Writs Act to force private companies to actively compromise the safety and security features that we all build into our products. These are the same security features that we all develop to keep people safe from identity thieves, hackers, and other criminals. A bad precedent here could let governments compel companies to hack into your phones, your computers, your software, and your networks.

We’re proud to stand with our colleagues and competitors in the industry to make our views clear on this important case. It’s rare that such a wide cross-section of the industry comes together on these types of issues — but the shadow of this troubling legal precedent compels us to do so.

2016 Google North America Public Policy Fellowship Now Accepting Applications

Over the last couple of summers, students from all over the US and Canada participated in Google’s Public Policy Fellowship, exploring the intersection of technology and policy at a diverse group of organizations and think tanks at the forefront of addressing some of today’s most challenging policy questions. Whether working on data security standards at a leading consumer group or innovation economy issues at a preeminent think tank, students gained hands-on experience tackling critical technology policy issues.

We’re excited to announce the 2016 North America Google Policy Fellowship - a paid fellowship that will continue to connect students interested in emerging technology policy issues with leading nonprofits, think tanks, and advocacy groups in Washington, DC, San Francisco, Boston and Canada. Here are the basic application guidelines and more specific information can be found here including this year’s host organizations.
  • You must be 18 years of age or older by January 1, 2016. 
  • In order to participate in the program, you must be a student. Google defines a student as an individual enrolled in or accepted into an accredited institution including (but not necessarily limited to) colleges, universities, masters programs, PhD programs and undergraduate programs. 
  • Eligibility is based on enrollment in an accredited university by January 1, 2016.You must be eligible and authorized to work in the country of your fellowship. 
  • Program timeline is specific to each organization, but roughly early June - mid/late August. 
The application period opens today for the North America region and all applications must be received by 12:00AM midnight ET, Friday, March 25, 2016. Acceptance will be announced the week of April 18th. More fellowship opportunities in Asia, Africa, and Europe will be coming soon. You can learn about the program, application process and host organizations on the Google Public Policy Fellowship website.

Taking Stock of Improvements to Transparency Around National Security Demands

Today, we're updating our Transparency Report concerning government demands for user information to include data from the first half of 2015. In the US, we have seen a 20% increase in requests in criminal investigations and a 49% increase in the number of individual accounts specified in those requests since the last reporting period. Compared to the same period last year, we saw a 4% decrease in requests, but a 45% increase in the number of individual accounts specified.

The release of our Transparency Report today is an opportunity to take stock of the hard-fought battle to provide more transparency into the national security demands that Google and other companies receive. There's still plenty of work to be done, but we've taken some significant steps forward.

In March of 2013, after about a year of discussion with the US government, Google began publishing statistics about receipt of National Security Letters (NSLs). This was the first time any company had reported on that sort of legal process.

Later that year, in an effort the expand the right to report on other types of national security demands, Google filed a lawsuit before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court asserting a First Amendment right to publish aggregate information about national security demands that we receive. At the time, Google could not even acknowledge receipt of any FISA demands, which meant we could not provide any transparency around the volume and scope of national security demands we receive.

As a result of the litigation, in 2014, Google and other companies earned the right to report the volume of national security demands in ranges of 1,000 (e.g. 0-999). The large ranges, however, limited public visibility into the scope of government surveillance, with no appreciable benefit to national security.

Earlier this year, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which cut the range in half and provides for other reporting options. Google and other companies in the Reform Government Surveillance coalition fought for the inclusion of these transparency provisions, which provide greater insight into the national security demands that we receive. As a result, starting today our Transparency Report provides more granularity about the national security demands that we receive going back to our first reporting period in 2009. We now make these disclosures in ranges of 500 (e.g. 0-499) instead of ranges of 1,000.

The USA Freedom Act also increases transparency around the issuance of NSLs and use of non-disclosure clauses. In the past, gag restrictions in NSLs could be indefinite, effectively preventing recipients from ever speaking about the existence of the NSLs or their contents and depriving the public of valuable information that can inform the broader policy debate about how to reform relevant legal authorities. Google has challenged the constitutionality of NSLs and non-disclosure obligations for precisely those reasons.

Under the USA Freedom Act, the Department of Justice is now required to regularly review past disclosure restrictions in NSLs and lift those that are no longer needed. Recently, the Department of Justice announced new procedures to implement this requirement, which should ensure that recipients of NSLs are not indefinitely gagged from notifying users and otherwise speaking about their experiences.

The current framework under the USA Freedom Act is far from perfect. As we underscored in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, we continue to believe there are important First Amendment and transparency equities in making more granular disclosures. There should be little doubt that companies can make such disclosures without compromising national security. Indeed, transparency is necessary to bring legitimacy to laws that otherwise operate concealed from the public. As we take stock of the progress made toward providing greater transparency, we should also recognize that further reforms are necessary to promote better oversight over, and insight into, the implementation of government surveillance laws.

Search on: 2015 in Google Search

From devastation to empowerment and tragedy to hope, our 15th annual Year in Search uncovers the moments that captured the world’s hearts—and questions that revealed who we are. From “How can I help Nepal” to “How can the world find peace?” here’s a look back at 2015, through the lens of Google search.

Google Year in Search 2015

Google - Year in Search 2015

Searching for ways to help

Within two minutes of the deadly attack on Paris in November, the French capital was searching for information on the assault underway in their city. Less than 10 minutes later, the rest of the world started searching. As of today, we’ve seen more than 897 million searches about the city as the world came together to “Pray for Paris.”

Global showings of support and offerings of help were a key topic in search this year. Following the Nepal earthquake, “how can I help Nepal?” was a top global search. From Somerville, Mass. to Ludwigsberg, Germany, people asked how to volunteer and what to donate.

Searching for perspective

While questions around Nepal were similar around the world, the migrant crisis in Europe spiked a wider variety of queries. From Italy asking “How to adopt a Syrian orphan child?” to Germany wondering “Where are the refugees coming from?” the world turned to Google to understand the situation and what it meant for them.

In the U.S., the topic of guns brought varying questions. From Portland, Ore. to Austin, Texas, people across the country searched for “what is gun control,” “why do we need gun control,” “why won’t gun control work” and more to understand the issue. With more than 160 million searches, interest in gun control spiked higher than interest for gun shops—typically a more popular search—at multiple points in 2015.

Searching for acceptance

In June, we met Caitlyn Jenner, someone we’d both always known and were meeting for the first time. Across the globe, she was searched more than 344 million times, and her story helped give a new voice to the transgender community.

People cheered “#lovewins” when the U.S. Supreme Court made a monumental ruling that gay marriages should be recognized at both the State and Federal level. The reaction was instant, with search interest in both same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court reaching higher than at any time in Google's history.

Searching for… the dress, the Force and the singer

Turning to the Search watercooler, the year began with the world divided over an important question: is it white and gold? or blue and black? Days of debate and 73 million searches later, “black and blue dress” topped searches of “white and gold dress,” and the matter was settled forever (right?).

And though “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is just hitting theaters this week, it’s already taken the Internet by storm(trooper). The trailer alone garnered more than 155 million searches! But the all-time high for Google searches around “Star Wars” was in 2005 after “The Revenge of the Sith” came out in theaters—can we beat it this week?

Finally, what better way to close out the year than by saying “Hello”? With the debut of “25,” Adele broke records by the week, putting her album at the top of the charts and skyrocketing to the top of Google Search faster than any other musician this year.

Hundreds of stories in depth

The 2015 Year in Search goes deeper than we've ever gone before. This year, we’re covering hundreds of news stories, sharing interactive guides and charts, and diving into the numbers by sharing things like how many times people searched for Adele (439 million, if you want to know!).

Go to to explore the rest of the 2015 Year in Search stories and top trending charts from around the world.

A Step Toward Protecting Fair Use on YouTube

More than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Some of those uploads make use of existing content, like music or TV clips, in new and transformative ways that have social value beyond the original (such as a parody or critique). In the U.S. this activity is often protected by fair use, a crucial exception to copyright law which can help discussion and creativity across different mediums to continue flourishing.

YouTube will now protect some of the best examples of fair use on YouTube by agreeing to defend them in court if necessary.

We are offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns. With approval of the video creators, we’ll keep the videos live on YouTube in the U.S., feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them.

We’re doing this because we recognize that creators can be intimidated by the DMCA’s counter notification process, and the potential for litigation that comes with it (for more background on the DMCA and copyright law see check out this Copyright Basics video). In addition to protecting the individual creator, this program could, over time, create a “demo reel” that will help the YouTube community and copyright owners alike better understand what fair use looks like online and develop best practices as a community.

While we can’t offer legal protection to every video creator—or even every video that has a strong fair use defense—we’ll continue to resist legally unsupported DMCA takedowns as part of our normal processes. We believe even the small number of videos we are able to protect will make a positive impact on the entire YouTube ecosystem, ensuring YouTube remains a place where creativity and expression can be rewarded.

Dig Once, Gain Broadband Later

Here’s a simple, bipartisan idea for spreading broadband to more places.

When broadband providers construct a network, they need to string wires along utility poles or bury them underground in protective tubing called conduit. And providers want to minimize the disruption to residents caused by these big builds. “Dig once” policies mandate the installation of an oversized conduit bank by any new network builder within the right-of-way, to accommodate future users when new roads are being built or opened for maintenance and conduit is not already in place.

The expense and complexity of digging up streets to install new networks may increase the cost and slow the pace of broadband network investment and deployment. In the context of the U.S. federal highway system, the U.S. GAO points out that “dig once” policies can save up to 25–33% in construction costs in urban areas and roughly 16% in rural areas. Not only is this an attractive option to providers who save the time and expense of digging, but it has the added benefit of reducing future disruption for local citizens (who probably don’t want to deal with a future road closure if it can be avoided). 

Last week, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) introduced the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2015. This follows the introduction of the Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act in the Senate by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Cory Gardner (R-CO). The bills both focus on the adoption of “dig once” policies for federal highway projects. The goal of the bills is important -- to reduce barriers to broadband deployment and further infrastructure investment, including in rural areas of the country.

Deploying a large-scale broadband network from scratch is hard. It requires considerable planning, negotiations with municipal officials, property owners, incumbent network and utility providers, contract reviews, etc. And all that has to happen before a network builder can put a shovel in the ground or string a wire.

From the White House to the state house and throughout communities across America, policymakers are increasingly focused on what it takes to deploy high-speed broadband networks. “Dig once” is one great way of doing that.

Furthering Broadband Abundance in America

When we broke ground on Google Fiber in our first group of cities, we ran shovel-first into the old saying that “you never know what you’ll find until you start digging.” Literally, because geological data hasn’t been fully collected in most communities. In early 2014, we created the Google Fiber City Checklist to help cities address this problem by cataloging key data assets ahead of any buildout. While our checklist has helped cities become more fiber-friendly, it doesn’t cover the countless impediments that might be encountered when laying down fiber.

On Monday, the White House released a report drafted by the twenty-five agencies of the Broadband Opportunity Council, outlining specific actions, incentives, and regulatory processes that the federal government can undertake to accelerate broadband deployment and adoption in the United States.

The White House report focuses on four particular areas that are of vital importance and were reflected in the hundreds of comments that the Department of Commerce received back in June:

1. Modernizing federal programs to expand program support for broadband investments. (e.g. expanding USDA and HUD grant programs to include broadband).

2. Empowering communities with tools and resources to attract broadband investment and promote meaningful use. (e.g. the provision of BroadbandUSA best practices, guides, and technical support to cities).

3. Promoting increased broadband deployment and competition through expanded access to Federal assets. (e.g. the DOT creation of a broadband rights-of-way policy for broadband on federal highways, agency-level implementations of “Dig Once” policies, etc.).

4. Improving data collection, analysis and research on broadband. (e.g creating an online data inventory of federal broadband assets).

As we wrote back in June, “The U.S. shouldn’t settle for less than ubiquitous, abundant broadband access” and there is still more work to be done for the U.S. government to successfully implement policies that can make the U.S. fiber ready, wireless ready, and consumer ready.

We see firsthand how the power of abundant broadband access can empower and uplift local communities, and we know people all around the country want to see their government work on what matters to them, modernizing infrastructure and expanding their opportunities. It’s great to know that 25 federal agencies as diverse as the Department of Agriculture, Small Business Administration, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, will now do more to prioritize broadband abundance. 

The Broadband Opportunity Council report, its objectives, and timelines are an excellent starting point toward action that will focus that leadership and move forward on enabling broadband for all Americans in the months and years ahead.