Category Archives: Official Google Blog

Insights from Googlers into our topics, technology, and the Google culture

COVID-19: $800+ million to support small businesses and crisis response

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen around the world, it’s taking a devastating toll on lives and communities. To help address some of these challenges, today we’re announcing a new $800+ million commitment to support small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), health organizations and governments, and health workers on the frontline of this global pandemic. 


Our commitment includes:


  • $250 million in ad grants to help the World Health Organization (WHO) and more than 100 government agencies globally provide critical information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other measures to help local communities. This is an increase from our initial $25 million announced last month. In addition, we’re providing $20 million in ad grants to community financial institutions and NGOs specifically to run public service announcements on relief funds and other resources for SMBs.

  • A $200 million investment fund that will support NGOs and financial institutions around the world to help provide small businesses with access to capital. As one example, we’re working with the Opportunity Finance Network in the U.S. to help fill gaps in financing for people and communities underserved by mainstream financial institutions. This is in addition to the $15 million in cash grants Google.org is already providing to nonprofits to help bridge these gaps for SMBs.

  • $340 million in Google Ads credits available to all SMBs with active accounts over the past year. Credit notifications will appear in their Google Ads accounts and can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across our advertising platforms. We hope it will help to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers.

  • A pool of $20 million in Google Cloud credits for academic institutions and researchers to leverage our computing capabilities and infrastructure as they study potential therapies and vaccines, track critical data, and identify new ways to combat COVID-19. Learn how to apply for credits on the Google for Education site.

  • Direct financial support and expertise to help increase the production capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE) and lifesaving medical devices. We’re working with our longtime supplier and partner Magid Glove & Safety, with the goal of ramping up production of 2-3 million face masks in the coming weeks that will be provided to the CDC Foundation. Additionally, employees from across Alphabet, including Google, Verily and X, are bringing engineering, supply chain and healthcare expertise to facilitate increased production of ventilators, working with equipment manufacturers, distributors and the government in this effort.

In addition to these commitments, we also increased the gift match Google offers every employee annually to $10,000 from $7,500. That means our employees can now give $20,000 to organizations in their communities, in addition to the $50 millionGoogle.org has already donated. Together, we’ll continue to help our communities—including our businesses, educators, researchers and nonprofits—to navigate the challenges ahead.

More from this Collection

Google's response to COVID-19

Updates about actions we're taking to keep employees safe, help people stay informed and connected, support small businesses and other organizations, and more. 

View all 19 articles

Keeping our network infrastructure strong amid COVID-19

Google's network supports products that people around the world rely on every day, like YouTube, Search, Maps and Gmail. It also connects Google Cloud customers to their employees and users. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads and more people move to working or learning from home, it’s natural to wonder whether the Google network can handle the load. The short answer is yes. 

We’ve designed our network to perform during times of high demand. The same systems we built to handle peaks like the Cyber Monday online shopping surge, or to stream the World Cup finals, support increased traffic as people turn to Google to find news, connect with others, and get work done during this pandemic. And while we’re seeing more usage for products like Hangouts Meet, and different usage patterns in products like YouTube, peak traffic levels are well within our ability to handle the load. 

Google’s network consists of a system of high-capacity fiber optic cables that encircle the globe, under both land and sea, connecting our data centers to each other, and to you. Traffic flows over our dedicated network, optimized for speed and reliability until we hand it off to more than 3,000 internet service providers (ISPs) in 200+ countries and territories for local delivery—the “last mile”—using hundreds of points of presence and thousands of edge locations around the world.

Handling traffic on Google’s infrastructure and bringing it close to people helps limit the burden on operators—whose networks have different levels of reserve capacity—to allow them to focus on delivering that last mile. Together, we work to provide the best possible experience for browsing, video-conferencing, streaming, making purchases online, and more to people around the world. We’re continuing to work with governments and network operators around the globe as we do our part to minimize stress on the system. As part of this, we recently announced that we are temporarily defaulting all videos on YouTube to standard definition.  

We also recognize the importance of Google services at a time like this and continue to add capacity to stay ahead of demand. Our dedicated global network deployment and operations team is increasing capacity wherever needed, and, in the event of a disruption, recovers service as quickly as possible. 

This may be a time of global uncertainty, but we're working hard to ensure the Google network is there for everyone, business or consumer, day and night.

Identifying vulnerabilities and protecting you from phishing

Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) works to counter targeted and government-backed hacking against Google and the people who use our products. Following our November update, today we’re sharing the latest insights to fight phishing, and for security teams, providing more details about our work identifying attacks against zero-day vulnerabilities. 

Protecting you from phishing

We have a long-standing policy to send you a warning if we detect that your account is a target of government-backed phishing or malware attempts. In 2019, we sent almost 40,000 warnings, a nearly 25 percent drop from 2018. One reason for this decline is that our new protections are working—attackers' efforts have been slowed down and they’re more deliberate in their attempts, meaning attempts are happening less frequently as attackers adapt.

Distribution of the targets of government-backed phishing in 2019

Distribution of the targets of government-backed phishing in 2019.

We’ve detected a few emerging trends in recent months.

Impersonating news outlets and journalists is on the rise

Upon reviewing phishing attempts since the beginning of this year, we’ve seen a rising number of attackers, including those from Iran and North Korea, impersonating news outlets or journalists. For example, attackers impersonate a journalist to seed false stories with other reporters to spread disinformation. In other cases, attackers will send several benign emails to build a rapport with a journalist or foreign policy expert before sending a malicious attachment in a follow up email. Government-backed attackers regularly target foreign policy experts for their research, access to the organizations they work with, and connection to fellow researchers or policymakers for subsequent attacks. 

Heavily targeted sectors are (mostly) not surprising

Government-backed attackers continue to consistently target geopolitical rivals, government officials, journalists, dissidents and activists. The chart below details the Russian threat actor group SANDWORM’s targeting efforts (by sector) over the last three years.

Distribution of targets by sector by the Russian threat actor known as SANDWORM

Government-backed attackers repeatedly go after their targets

In 2019, one in five accounts that received a warning was targeted multiple times by attackers. If at first the attacker does not succeed, they’ll try again using a different lure, different account, or trying to compromise an associate of their target.

We’ve yet to see people successfully phished if they participate in Google’s Advanced Protection Program (APP), even if they are repeatedly targeted. APP provides the strongest protections available against phishing and account hijacking and is specifically designed for the highest-risk accounts. 

Finding attacks that leverage zero-day vulnerabilities

Zero-day vulnerabilities are unknown software flaws. Until they’re identified and fixed, they can be exploited by attackers. TAG actively hunts for these types of attacks because they are particularly dangerous and have a high rate of success, although they account for a small number of the overall total. When we find an attack that takes advantage of  a zero-day vulnerability, we report the vulnerability to the vendor and give them seven days to patch or produce an advisory or we release an advisory ourselves

We work across all platforms, and in 2019 TAG discovered zero-day vulnerabilities affecting Android, Chrome, iOS, Internet Explorer and Windows. Most recently, TAG was acknowledged in January 2020 for our contribution in identifying CVE-2020-0674, a remote code execution vulnerability in Internet Explorer. 

Last year, TAG discovered that a single threat actor was capitalizing on five zero-day vulnerabilities. Finding this many zero-day exploits from the same actor in a relatively short time frame is rare. The exploits were delivered via compromised legitimate websites (e.g. watering hole attacks), links to malicious websites, and email attachments in limited spear phishing campaigns. The majority of targets we observed were from North Korea or individuals who worked on North Korea-related issues.

For security teams interested in learning more, here are additional details about the exploits and our work in 2019:

The vulnerabilities underlying these exploits included:

The following technical details are associated with the exploits and can be used for teams interested in conducting further research on these attacks:

  • CVE-2018-8653, CVE-2019-1367 and CVE-2020-0674 are vulnerabilities inside jscript.dll, therefore all exploits enabled IE8 rendering and used JScript.Compact as JS engine.

  • In most Internet Explorer exploits, attackers abused the Enumerator object in order to gain remote code execution. 

  • To escape from the Internet Explorer EPM sandbox, exploits used a technique consisting of replaying the same vulnerability inside svchost by abusing Web Proxy Auto-Discovery (WPad) Service. Attackers abused this technique with CVE-2020-0674 on Firefox to escape the sandbox after exploiting CVE-2019-17026.

  • CVE-2019-0676 is a variant of CVE-2017-0022, CVE-2016-3298, CVE-2016-0162 and CVE-2016-3351 where the vulnerability resided inside the handling of “res://” URI scheme. Exploiting CVE-2019-0676 enabled attackers to reveal presence or non-presence of files on the victim’s computer; this information was later used to decide whether or not a second stage exploit should be delivered.

  • The attack vector for CVE-2019-1367 was rather atypical as the exploit was delivered from an Office document abusing the online video embedding feature to load an external URL conducting the exploitation.

Our Threat Analyst Group will continue to identify bad actors and share relevant information with others in the industry. Our goal is to bring awareness to these issues to protect you and fight bad actors to prevent future attacks. In a future update, we’ll provide details on attackers using lures related to COVID-19 and expected behavior we’re observing (all within the normal range of attacker activity). 

Identifying vulnerabilities and protecting you from phishing

Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) works to counter targeted and government-backed hacking against Google and the people who use our products. Following our November update, today we’re sharing the latest insights to fight phishing, and for security teams, providing more details about our work identifying attacks against zero-day vulnerabilities. 

Protecting you from phishing

We have a long-standing policy to send you a warning if we detect that your account is a target of government-backed phishing or malware attempts. In 2019, we sent almost 40,000 warnings, a nearly 25 percent drop from 2018. One reason for this decline is that our new protections are working—attackers' efforts have been slowed down and they’re more deliberate in their attempts, meaning attempts are happening less frequently as attackers adapt.

Distribution of the targets of government-backed phishing in 2019

Distribution of the targets of government-backed phishing in 2019.

We’ve detected a few emerging trends in recent months.

Impersonating news outlets and journalists is on the rise

Upon reviewing phishing attempts since the beginning of this year, we’ve seen a rising number of attackers, including those from Iran and North Korea, impersonating news outlets or journalists. For example, attackers impersonate a journalist to seed false stories with other reporters to spread disinformation. In other cases, attackers will send several benign emails to build a rapport with a journalist or foreign policy expert before sending a malicious attachment in a follow up email. Government-backed attackers regularly target foreign policy experts for their research, access to the organizations they work with, and connection to fellow researchers or policymakers for subsequent attacks. 

Heavily targeted sectors are (mostly) not surprising

Government-backed attackers continue to consistently target geopolitical rivals, government officials, journalists, dissidents and activists. The chart below details the Russian threat actor group SANDWORM’s targeting efforts (by sector) over the last three years.

Distribution of targets by sector by the Russian threat actor known as SANDWORM

Government-backed attackers repeatedly go after their targets

In 2019, one in five accounts that received a warning was targeted multiple times by attackers. If at first the attacker does not succeed, they’ll try again using a different lure, different account, or trying to compromise an associate of their target.

We’ve yet to see people successfully phished if they participate in Google’s Advanced Protection Program (APP), even if they are repeatedly targeted. APP provides the strongest protections available against phishing and account hijacking and is specifically designed for the highest-risk accounts. 

Finding attacks that leverage zero-day vulnerabilities

Zero-day vulnerabilities are unknown software flaws. Until they’re identified and fixed, they can be exploited by attackers. TAG actively hunts for these types of attacks because they are particularly dangerous and have a high rate of success, although they account for a small number of the overall total. When we find an attack that takes advantage of  a zero-day vulnerability, we report the vulnerability to the vendor and give them seven days to patch or produce an advisory or we release an advisory ourselves

We work across all platforms, and in 2019 TAG discovered zero-day vulnerabilities affecting Android, Chrome, iOS, Internet Explorer and Windows. Most recently, TAG was acknowledged in January 2020 for our contribution in identifying CVE-2020-0674, a remote code execution vulnerability in Internet Explorer. 

Last year, TAG discovered that a single threat actor was capitalizing on five zero-day vulnerabilities. Finding this many zero-day exploits from the same actor in a relatively short time frame is rare. The exploits were delivered via compromised legitimate websites (e.g. watering hole attacks), links to malicious websites, and email attachments in limited spear phishing campaigns. The majority of targets we observed were from North Korea or individuals who worked on North Korea-related issues.

For security teams interested in learning more, here are additional details about the exploits and our work in 2019:

The vulnerabilities underlying these exploits included:

The following technical details are associated with the exploits and can be used for teams interested in conducting further research on these attacks:

  • CVE-2018-8653, CVE-2019-1367 and CVE-2020-0674 are vulnerabilities inside jscript.dll, therefore all exploits enabled IE8 rendering and used JScript.Compact as JS engine.

  • In most Internet Explorer exploits, attackers abused the Enumerator object in order to gain remote code execution. 

  • To escape from the Internet Explorer EPM sandbox, exploits used a technique consisting of replaying the same vulnerability inside svchost by abusing Web Proxy Auto-Discovery (WPad) Service. Attackers abused this technique with CVE-2020-0674 on Firefox to escape the sandbox after exploiting CVE-2019-17026.

  • CVE-2019-0676 is a variant of CVE-2017-0022, CVE-2016-3298, CVE-2016-0162 and CVE-2016-3351 where the vulnerability resided inside the handling of “res://” URI scheme. Exploiting CVE-2019-0676 enabled attackers to reveal presence or non-presence of files on the victim’s computer; this information was later used to decide whether or not a second stage exploit should be delivered.

  • The attack vector for CVE-2019-1367 was rather atypical as the exploit was delivered from an Office document abusing the online video embedding feature to load an external URL conducting the exploitation.

Our Threat Analyst Group will continue to identify bad actors and share relevant information with others in the industry. Our goal is to bring awareness to these issues to protect you and fight bad actors to prevent future attacks. In a future update, we’ll provide details on attackers using lures related to COVID-19 and expected behavior we’re observing (all within the normal range of attacker activity). 

Discover podcasts you’ll love with Google Podcasts, now on iOS

It took me a decade to find the podcasts I love most. When I lived in Chicago, I started downloading podcasts for traffic-filled drives to soccer practice. One that stood out during the ninety-minute commute was Planet Money, which became a ritual for me as I studied economics. Since then I've gradually gathered a list of favorites for all activities from long runs to cooking dinner—Acquired, PTI, and More Perfect are a few. Building my podcast library took years and a number of friends introducing me to their favorite shows and episodes, such as a particularly memorable Radiolab about CRISPR.

But you should be able to find new favorites in minutes, not years. We’ve redesigned the Google Podcasts app to make it easier to discover podcasts you’ll love, build your list of go-to podcasts, and customize your listening. To support listeners on more platforms, we’re also bringing Google Podcasts to iOS for the first time and adding support for subscriptions on Google Podcasts for Web. Regardless of the platform you’re using, your listening progress will sync across devices, and you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off.

The new app is organized around three tabs: Home, Explore and Activity. The Home tab features a feed of new episodes and gives you quick access to your subscribed shows. When you select an episode you want to listen to, you’ll now see topics or people covered in that podcast, and you can easily jump to Google Search to learn more.

podcastsapp.jpg

In the Explore tab, “For you” displays new show and episode recommendations related to your interests, and you can browse popular podcasts in categories such as comedy, sports, and news. You’ll be able to control personalized recommendations from the Google Podcasts settings, which are accessible right from the Explore tab.


Android_google_podcast_touch_blank.gif

As you listen and subscribe to more podcasts, the Activity tab will display your listen history, queued up episodes, and downloads. For each show in your subscriptions, you can now enable automatic downloading and/or push notifications for when new episodes come out.

The new Google Podcasts is available on iOS today and rolling out to Android this week. Try it out and discover your next favorite show.

Learn from our mobility experts at Android OnAir

To support Android Enterprise customers with their mobility initiatives, we’ve created a series of webinars at Android OnAir that offer best practices in deploying and managing devices. Each webinar tackles an essential subject that is top of mind for IT decision makers and admins. Participants can join a live Q&A during the broadcast to get answers directly from Google. If you can’t make the live broadcast, webinars are all available on-demand.

Our current catalogue of on-demand webinars cover important topics like deployment strategies and Android security updates. Check out the upcoming schedule and register today to reserve your spot.

Google security services on Android 

April 15:Android devices are backed by industry-leading security to help keep devices safe. Learn how Google Play Protect, Safe Browsing, SafetyNet and other Google Security Services help safeguard company data and employee privacy, and discover strategies to incorporate them into your mobility initiative.

Using mobile to improve business continuity 

May 13: Android can transform how your teams connect with each other and work more efficiently, no matter where they are. Learn how you can take mobile devices beyond traditional use cases and give employees more convenience with access to internal services like private apps, corporate sites and key services to extend business continuity to any device.

How Google mandates Android security standards

June 17:Consistent security and management standards give companies the confidence to use a mix of devices from different OEMs to support various business use cases. Find out more about how Google works closely with device manufacturers and developers to implement security systems that are deployed on enterprise devices.

Preventing enterprise data loss on Android

July 15: Data loss can be catastrophic for any business. Learn how Android Enterprise management features give IT admins the tools to mandate secure app and data usage practices that help prevent leaks and guard against attacks from bad actors. Discover Android management strategies to give employees the level of access you want while helping protect critical company data.

Equip your frontline workers for success with Android

August 12: Frontline workers like sales associates, warehouse managers, delivery drivers and others perform critical tasks that drive customer success. However, mobile investment in these employees remains low. Businesses can use mobile devices to empower these teams with data-driven decisions and real-time access to company resources. Learn how business can use Android device diversity to provide the right device for each digital use case.

Explaining Android Enterprise
Recommended and security requirements

September 16: Android Enterprise Recommended simplifies mobility choices for businesses with a Google-approved shortlist of devices, services, and partners that meet our strict enterprise requirements. Find out how this initiative can help your team select devices with consistent security and software requirements and find validated Enterprise Mobility Management and Managed Service Provider partners.


Five things you (maybe) didn’t know about AI

While there’s plenty of information out there on artificial intelligence, it’s not always easy to distinguish fact from fiction or find explanations that are easy to understand. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Google to create The A to Z of AI. It’s a series of simple, bite-sized explainers to help anyone understand what AI is, how it works and how it’s changing the world around us. Here are a few things you might learn:

AI.jpg

A is for Artificial Intelligence

1. AI is already in our everyday lives. 

You’ve probably interacted with AI without even realizing it. If you’ve ever searched for a specific image in Google Photos, asked a smart speaker about the weather or been rerouted by your car’s navigation system, you’ve been helped by AI. Those examples might feel obvious, but there are many other ways it plays a role in your life you might not realize. AI is also helping solve some bigger, global challenges. For example, there are apps that use AI to help farmers identify issues with crops. And there are now systems that can examine citywide traffic information in real time to help people efficiently planning their driving routes.

Climate.jpg

C is for Climate

2. AI is being used to help tackle the global climate crisis. 

AI offers us the ability to process large volumes of data and uncover patterns—an invaluable aid when it comes to climate change. One common use case is AI-powered systems that help people regulate the amount of energy they use by turning off the heating and lights when they leave the house. AI is also helping to model glacier melt and predict rising sea levels so effective that action can be taken. Researchers are also considering the environmental impact of data centers and AI computing itself by exploring how to develop more energy efficient systems and infrastructures.

Datasets.jpg

D is for Datasets

3. AI learns from examples in the real world.

Just as a child learns through examples, the same is true of machine learning algorithms. And that’s what datasets are: large collections of examples, like weather data, photos or music, that we can use to train AI. Due to their scale and complexity (think of a dataset made up of extensive maps covering the whole of the known solar system), datasets can be very challenging to build and refine. For this reason, AI design teams often share datasets for the benefit of the wider scientific community, making it easier to collaborate and build on each other's research.

Fakes.jpg

F is for Fakes

4. AI can help our efforts to spot deepfakes.

“Deepfakes'' are AI-generated images, speech, music or videos that look real. They work by studying existing real-world imagery or audio, mapping them in detail, then manipulating them to create works of fiction that are disconcertingly true to life. However, there are often some telltale signs that distinguish them from reality; in a deepfake video, voices might sound a bit robotic, or characters may blink less or repeat their hand gestures. AI can help us spot these inconsistencies.

You.jpg

Y is for You

5. It’s impossible to teach AI what it means to be human. 

As smart as AI is (and will be), it won’t be able to understand everything that humans can. In fact, you could give an AI system all the data in the world and it still wouldn’t reflect, or understand, every human being on the planet. That’s because we’re complex, multidimensional characters that sit outside the data that machines use to make sense of things. AI systems are trained and guided by humans. And it’s up to each person to choose how they interact with AI systems and what information they feel comfortable sharing. You decide how much AI gets to learn about you.

For 22 more bite-sized definitions, visit https://atozofai.withgoogle.com

Five things you (maybe) didn’t know about AI

While there’s plenty of information out there on artificial intelligence, it’s not always easy to distinguish fact from fiction or find explanations that are easy to understand. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Google to create The A to Z of AI. It’s a series of simple, bite-sized explainers to help anyone understand what AI is, how it works and how it’s changing the world around us. Here are a few things you might learn:

AI.jpg

A is for Artificial Intelligence

1. AI is already in our everyday lives. 

You’ve probably interacted with AI without even realizing it. If you’ve ever searched for a specific image in Google Photos, asked a smart speaker about the weather or been rerouted by your car’s navigation system, you’ve been helped by AI. Those examples might feel obvious, but there are many other ways it plays a role in your life you might not realize. AI is also helping solve some bigger, global challenges. For example, there are apps that use AI to help farmers identify issues with crops. And there are now systems that can examine citywide traffic information in real time to help people efficiently planning their driving routes.

Climate.jpg

C is for Climate

2. AI is being used to help tackle the global climate crisis. 

AI offers us the ability to process large volumes of data and uncover patterns—an invaluable aid when it comes to climate change. One common use case is AI-powered systems that help people regulate the amount of energy they use by turning off the heating and lights when they leave the house. AI is also helping to model glacier melt and predict rising sea levels so effective that action can be taken. Researchers are also considering the environmental impact of data centers and AI computing itself by exploring how to develop more energy efficient systems and infrastructures.

Datasets.jpg

D is for Datasets

3. AI learns from examples in the real world.

Just as a child learns through examples, the same is true of machine learning algorithms. And that’s what datasets are: large collections of examples, like weather data, photos or music, that we can use to train AI. Due to their scale and complexity (think of a dataset made up of extensive maps covering the whole of the known solar system), datasets can be very challenging to build and refine. For this reason, AI design teams often share datasets for the benefit of the wider scientific community, making it easier to collaborate and build on each other's research.

Fakes.jpg

F is for Fakes

4. AI can help our efforts to spot deepfakes.

“Deepfakes'' are AI-generated images, speech, music or videos that look real. They work by studying existing real-world imagery or audio, mapping them in detail, then manipulating them to create works of fiction that are disconcertingly true to life. However, there are often some telltale signs that distinguish them from reality; in a deepfake video, voices might sound a bit robotic, or characters may blink less or repeat their hand gestures. AI can help us spot these inconsistencies.

You.jpg

Y is for You

5. It’s impossible to teach AI what it means to be human. 

As smart as AI is (and will be), it won’t be able to understand everything that humans can. In fact, you could give an AI system all the data in the world and it still wouldn’t reflect, or understand, every human being on the planet. That’s because we’re complex, multidimensional characters that sit outside the data that machines use to make sense of things. AI systems are trained and guided by humans. And it’s up to each person to choose how they interact with AI systems and what information they feel comfortable sharing. You decide how much AI gets to learn about you.

For 22 more bite-sized definitions, visit https://atozofai.withgoogle.com

Stay updated on travel advisories and airline policies


As the spread of COVID-19 continues, we’re seeing more searches for travel-related information—like travel advisories and trip cancellation policies—so we’re making some changes this week to help you find this information faster.


Stay up to date on travel advisories

When you search on Google for information like flights, hotels, or things to do you’ll start seeing COVID-19 related travel advisories or restrictions for your destination, with links to relevant information from your country’s travel authority when possible. This information will appear on the search results page, at the top of google.com/travel, and in Google Maps when you search for hotels. 


advisories_flights_ttd (1).png


Understanding airline policies for flight changes and cancellations

In response to COVID-19, many airlines have adjusted change fee and cancellation policies. When you search on Google for flights with a specific airline or go to Google Flights, we’ll direct you to our Help Center article with more information on airline policies. These policies may change, so be sure to click through to the airline’s website for the latest information.


Flights_flexibileFares (3).png

 

We hope these resources help you stay safe and make the best decisions about travel plans. We'll continue to work on ways to help as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

City of Antwerp and Google to digitize 100,000 books

The world of book publishing today is, in many ways, dignified and highbrow. But it was a different story in the 16th century, about a hundred years after the invention of the printing press. Publishing was a high-risk, high-reward proposition: With the right backing and enough capital investment, an entrepreneur could become wildly successful. But publishing the wrong thing in the wrong place could be disastrous—even fatal, with governments and religious authorities taking a very severe view of what content was fit to print.

No one knew this better than Christophe Plantin, who set up a publishing house in Antwerp, Belgium, in the mid-16th century. Facing religious intolerance and escaping persecution, he helped put the city on the map as a publishing powerhouse. His own printing operation continued in his family for generations. 

Today, Plantin’s home and business are preserved as the Plantin-Moretus Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to 25,000 early printed books. Visitors to Antwerp can walk through the rooms where the family lived and worked, and researchers can delve into the collection’s manuscripts, books, archives and original prints.

And now, thanks to a partnership between the City of Antwerp and Google, we will digitize more than 32,000 books from the museum, along with an additional 60,000 books held by the city’s Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library.

In total, more than 100,000 international works published from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century will be made freely accessible in the coming years via Google Books and the library catalogues of both institutions. The scanned volumes, which are no longer subject to copyright, will be full-text searchable, meaning that researchers—as well as members of the public—will be able to search them easily and quickly.

The digitization will start in early 2021, allowing time for both Google and the city to set up the project and establish logistics processes. We expect it will take at least three years, partly because we don’t want to cause too much disruption to library visitors who come to view the materials. The books will be transported securely in batches from Antwerp to our European digitization center. Shortly after each work is scanned, the digital copy will appear on books.google.com, and the libraries will also receive digital copies of their respective works to incorporate into their own catalogues. 

Google Books was launched 15 years ago, with the goal of making all books from around the world digitally available and searchable for everyone. This collaboration with the City of Antwerp adds an incredibly rich collection from the Dutch-speaking world to our collection, and brings us a crucial step closer to achieving our mission.