2017 Google North America Public Policy Fellowship now accepting applications

The intersection of innovation and technology has never been more exciting. Over the last few of summers, we’ve shared this excitement with students from all over the U.S. who have participated in Google’s Public Policy Fellowship. The students are given the opportunity to work  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 gain hands-on experience tackling critical technology policy issues.

We’re excited to announce the 2017 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 and California. Below are the basic application guidelines. More specific information, including a list of this year’s hosts, can be found here.

  • You must be 18 years of age or older by January 1, 2017.

  • 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, 2017.You must be eligible and authorized to work in the country of your fellowship.

  • Program timeline is June 5th – August 11th, with regular programming throughout the summer.  

  • The application period opens today for the North America region and all applications must be received by 12:00AM midnight ET, Friday, March 24th.  

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.

By Washington’s teeth! U.S. presidential history, now on Google Arts & Culture

Did you know that the Bush Family has a favorite taco recipe, which First Lady Barbara Bush described as “loved by all who love Mexican food”? Or that George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood as is popularly thought, but actually from human and cow teeth as well as ivory? Or how about that, to celebrate his Inauguration, Theodore Roosevelt received a lock of president Lincoln’s hair as a gift?

No, we’re not presidential scholars; we’re just excited for Presidents’ Day! Today, as a follow-up to our American Democracy collection, Google Arts & Culture is partnering with more than 30 cultural institutions to bring you history from the United States presidency, available at g.co/americandemocracy.

With over 2,000 new artifacts, photos, pictures and more, and 63 new exhibits (for 158 exhibits, total) this collection invites you to remember and celebrate the history, lives and legacies of the 44 U.S. presidents. Take an immersive tour of presidents’ iconic homes and get a sneak peek into their private lives—from childhood and family life, to favorite pastimes and chefs—in addition to their public accomplishments.

GAC_PresidentsPets.png

Explore the weird world of the presidential pets—other than dogs, there have been raccoons, sheep, horses, badgers, and even a pygmy hippopotamus and elephants.

You can view 25 presidential portraits captured using Google’s Art Camera. These gigapixel quality images allow you to zoom in and explore details of these portraits more thoroughly than you could with the naked eye.

Eisenhower_Portrait.png

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 35th president of the United States.

We’re making available 17 new 360-degree virtual tours that transport you to places full of presidential history. Using the Google Arts & Culture App (available on iOS and Android) and Google Cardboard, take a virtual tour of places like the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. And, in addition, educators can use Google Expeditions to take students on a guided tour of the White House, right from their desks! There are 14 Google Expeditions relating to the Office of the President, including Presidential Museums and work by the First Ladies, all great trips for students across grades and subjects.

White House Cardboard Screenshot.png

Take a virtual reality tour of the White House, right from wherever you are.

Ever wonder what it’s like to travel like POTUS? Take a look at Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One (now housed in his Presidential Library) and other ways presidents have traveled in safety and style.

Our Presidents’ Day collection covers the vast political and personal histories of our U.S. heads of state, full of intriguing and surprising stories that allow for anyone with an internet connection to turn into a presidential historian. We hope you enjoy!

By Washington’s teeth! U.S. presidential history, now on Google Arts & Culture

Did you know that the Bush Family has a favorite taco recipe, which First Lady Barbara Bush described as “loved by all who love Mexican food”? Or that George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood as is popularly thought, but actually from human and cow teeth as well as ivory? Or how about that, to celebrate his Inauguration, Theodore Roosevelt received a lock of president Lincoln’s hair as a gift?

No, we’re not presidential scholars; we’re just excited for Presidents’ Day! Today, as a follow-up to our American Democracy collection, Google Arts & Culture is partnering with more than 30 cultural institutions to bring you history from the United States presidency, available at g.co/americandemocracy.

With over 2,000 new artifacts, photos, pictures and more, and 63 new exhibits (for 158 exhibits, total) this collection invites you to remember and celebrate the history, lives and legacies of the 44 U.S. presidents. Take an immersive tour of presidents’ iconic homes and get a sneak peek into their private lives—from childhood and family life, to favorite pastimes and chefs—in addition to their public accomplishments.

GAC_PresidentsPets.png

Explore the weird world of the presidential pets—other than dogs, there have been raccoons, sheep, horses, badgers, and even a pygmy hippopotamus and elephants.

You can view 25 presidential portraits captured using Google’s Art Camera. These gigapixel quality images allow you to zoom in and explore details of these portraits more thoroughly than you could with the naked eye.

Eisenhower_Portrait.png

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 35th president of the United States.

We’re making available 17 new 360-degree virtual tours that transport you to places full of presidential history. Using the Google Arts & Culture App (available on iOS and Android) and Google Cardboard, take a virtual tour of places like the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. And, in addition, educators can use Google Expeditions to take students on a guided tour of the White House, right from their desks! There are 14 Google Expeditions relating to the Office of the President, including Presidential Museums and work by the First Ladies, all great trips for students across grades and subjects.

White House Cardboard Screenshot.png

Take a virtual reality tour of the White House, right from wherever you are.

Ever wonder what it’s like to travel like POTUS? Take a look at Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One (now housed in his Presidential Library) and other ways presidents have traveled in safety and style.

Our Presidents’ Day collection covers the vast political and personal histories of our U.S. heads of state, full of intriguing and surprising stories that allow for anyone with an internet connection to turn into a presidential historian. We hope you enjoy!

By Washington’s teeth! U.S. presidential history, now on Google Arts & Culture

Did you know that the Bush Family has a favorite taco recipe, which First Lady Barbara Bush described as “loved by all who love Mexican food”? Or that George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood as is popularly thought, but actually from human and cow teeth as well as ivory? Or how about that, to celebrate his Inauguration, Theodore Roosevelt received a lock of president Lincoln’s hair as a gift?

No, we’re not presidential scholars; we’re just excited for Presidents’ Day! Today, as a follow-up to our American Democracy collection, Google Arts & Culture is partnering with more than 30 cultural institutions to bring you history from the United States presidency, available at g.co/americandemocracy.

With over 2,000 new artifacts, photos, pictures and more, and 63 new exhibits (for 158 exhibits, total) this collection invites you to remember and celebrate the history, lives and legacies of the 44 U.S. presidents. Take an immersive tour of presidents’ iconic homes and get a sneak peek into their private lives—from childhood and family life, to favorite pastimes and chefs—in addition to their public accomplishments.

GAC_PresidentsPets.png

Explore the weird world of the presidential pets—other than dogs, there have been raccoons, sheep, horses, badgers, and even a pygmy hippopotamus and elephants.

You can view 25 presidential portraits captured using Google’s Art Camera. These gigapixel quality images allow you to zoom in and explore details of these portraits more thoroughly than you could with the naked eye.

Eisenhower_Portrait.png

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 35th president of the United States.

We’re making available 17 new 360-degree virtual tours that transport you to places full of presidential history. Using the Google Arts & Culture App (available on iOS and Android) and Google Cardboard, take a virtual tour of places like the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. And, in addition, educators can use Google Expeditions to take students on a guided tour of the White House, right from their desks! There are 14 Google Expeditions relating to the Office of the President, including Presidential Museums and work by the First Ladies, all great trips for students across grades and subjects.

White House Cardboard Screenshot.png

Take a virtual reality tour of the White House, right from wherever you are.

Ever wonder what it’s like to travel like POTUS? Take a look at Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One (now housed in his Presidential Library) and other ways presidents have traveled in safety and style.

Our Presidents’ Day collection covers the vast political and personal histories of our U.S. heads of state, full of intriguing and surprising stories that allow for anyone with an internet connection to turn into a presidential historian. We hope you enjoy!

Resounding support for updating electronic privacy laws

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387) by voice vote.  This is the second year in a row that the House of Representatives has resoundingly passed this bill, which is a testament to its widespread support across the political spectrum.

The Email Privacy Act updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require the government to obtain a warrant before it can compel companies like Google to disclose the content of users’ communications.  Since 2010, Google has testified before Congress four times in support of this reform, which will protect all users, and we are proud of our efforts.  We are particularly grateful to the House of Representatives leadership and to Representatives Yoder (R-Kan.), Polis (D-Colo.), Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Conyers (D-Mich.) for securing passage of this bill so early in the 115th Congress.

This Act will fix a constitutional flaw in ECPA, which currently purports to allow the government to compel a provider to disclose email contents in some cases without a warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  The Email Privacy Act ensures that the content of our emails are protected in the same way that the Fourth Amendment protects the items we store in our homes. 

This is consistent with the practice around the country already and what the Constitution requires; the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in 2010 that ECPA is unconstitutional to the extent it permits the government to compel a service provider to disclose to the government a user’s electronic communications content without a warrant.  Today’s vote demonstrates that this conviction is widely shared.

The Senate now has a historic opportunity to shepherd this landmark reform toward enactment.  While there are disagreements about other aspects of surveillance reform, there is no disagreement that emails and electronic content deserve Fourth Amendment protections.  We urge the Senate to advance this common sense measure, which will begin the process of updating ECPA for the Internet age.

Resounding support for updating electronic privacy laws

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387) by voice vote.  This is the second year in a row that the House of Representatives has resoundingly passed this bill, which is a testament to its widespread support across the political spectrum.

The Email Privacy Act updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require the government to obtain a warrant before it can compel companies like Google to disclose the content of users’ communications.  Since 2010, Google has has testified before Congress four times in support of this reform, which will protect all users, and we are proud of our efforts.  We are particularly grateful to the House of Representatives leadership and to Representatives Yoder (R-Kan.), Polis (D-Colo.), Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Conyers (D-Mich.) for securing passage of this bill so early in the 115th Congress.

This Act will fix a constitutional flaw in ECPA, which currently purports to allow the government to compel a provider to disclose email contents in some cases without a warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  The Email Privacy Act ensures that the content of our emails are protected in the same way that the Fourth Amendment protects the items we store in our homes. 

This is consistent with the practice around the country already and what the Constitution requires; the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in 2010 that ECPA is unconstitutional to the extent it permits the government to compel a service provider to disclose to the government a user’s electronic communications content without a warrant.  Today’s vote demonstrates that this conviction is widely shared.

The Senate now has a historic opportunity to shepherd this landmark reform toward enactment.  While there are disagreements about other aspects of surveillance reform, there is no disagreement that emails and electronic content deserve Fourth Amendment protections.  We urge the Senate to advance this common sense measure, which will begin the process of updating ECPA for the Internet age.

Reflecting on Google’s GNI Engagement

 As the year comes to a close, we’re reflecting on Google’s Global Network Initiative (GNI) assessment and some of this year’s important developments in our work to protect the free expression and privacy interests of our users.

Last week, in our continued effort to increase transparency around government demands for user data, we made available to the public the National Security Letters (NSLs) Google has received where, either through litigation or legislation, we have been freed of nondisclosure obligations. Our goal in doing so is to shed more light on the nature and scope of these requests. We’ve also supported policy efforts to ensure that the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons are addressed as U.S. policymakers consider government surveillance issues.

Earlier this month, we highlighted our efforts to comply with the right to be forgotten in Europe. For much of the last year, we’ve worked to defend the idea that each country should be able to balance freedom of expression and privacy in the way that country sees fit, and not according to another country’s interpretation. One Data Protection Authority, the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (the CNIL), ordered Google to delist French right to be forgotten removals for users everywhere. We agree with the CNIL that privacy is a fundamental right — but so, too, is the right to free expression. Any balance struck between those two rights must be accompanied by territorial limits, consistent with the basic principles of international law.

These are some examples of Google’s public policy work that illustrate our commitment to the freedom of expression and privacy rights of our users. We know that pressing global issues are best addressed in partnership with with key stakeholders — and the GNI is critical to Google’s efforts.

The GNI is at the core of our multi-stakeholder engagement on free expression and privacy issues. Google is proud to be a founding member of the GNI, an initiative that brings together ICT companies with civil society organizations, investors, and academics to define a shared approach to freedom of expression and privacy online. The GNI provides a framework for company operations, rooted in international standards; promotes accountability of ICT sector companies through independent assessment; enables multi-stakeholder policy engagement; and creates shared learning opportunities across stakeholder boundaries.

Earlier this year, GNI released the second round of assessments, and announced the board’s determination that Google is compliant with the GNI framework. The assessment is an important tool for companies, NGOs, academics, and others working together to review how companies address risks to privacy and free expression.

The assessment process includes a review of relevant internal systems, policies and procedures for implementing the GNI Principles (“the process review”), and an examination of specific cases or examples that show how the company is implementing them in practice (the “case review”).

Our cases were selected for their salience to our approach to implementing the GNI Principles, taking into consideration Google’s products and services, geographical footprint, operating environments, and human rights risk profile. In addition, to the Google-specific cases discussed in GNI’s public assessment report, we wanted to provide additional examples to illustrate the types of non-U.S. cases reviewed.

Request for user data
A request was made for Gmail user information by a federal police department. A key part of our process is making sure that the requests we receive are appropriately supported by legal process. In this case, we found that the initial request was inadequate due to failure to have a judicial stamp or signature, and we therefore pushed back, as we would not comply unless the request was judicially authorized. Once these items were obtained and, we determined that it was a valid legal request (including that it was not overbroad), we complied with the request.

Request for removal
A request for Blogger content removal was made by a regulatory agency. The requestor claimed that content was subject to removal under the country’s statute prohibiting appeals to mass riots, extremist activities, and mass actions against established order. In reviewing the request, we determined that the content did not violate our terms of service.  We then responded by requesting a copy of the decision citing specific URLs that are illegal. This would be evidence of an authoritative interpretation of the local law as applied to the content.  As there was no response from the requestor, and the content did not violate our company policies, the request was denied and we did not remove the material.

RTBF: Push for Judicial Review; Careful Development and Implementation of Rigorous Removal Process for Requests
This example describes how we responded to requests subsequent to the Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja ruling, which presented risks to freedom of expression. In the Costeja case, we appealed through the court process, but were unsuccessful.  We pushed back on this ruling because we considered the requirement for Google to take down this information to be in conflict with freedom of expression. On appeal, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that people have the right to ask for information to be removed from search results that include their names if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.” In deciding what to remove, search engines must also have regard to the public interest, without additional guidance regarding what information constitutes “public interest.” The court also decided that search engines don’t qualify for a “journalistic exception.” We continue to fight court cases seeking to expand this requirement for takedowns globally.

We also convened the Advisory Council to Google on the Right to be Forgotten to review input from dozens of experts in meetings across Europe, as well as from thousands of submissions via the Web. The Council included Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The Council advised us on performing the balancing act between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s interest in access to information.

In response to the Costeja ruling, Google established a dedicated team to develop and implement a system to remove valid RtbF requests. We evaluate each request appropriately, complying with the law, but making sure that, if there is a legal basis for the content to remain available, we will assess how that applies. To address the ruling, we assembled a team to address the new category of requests arising from the rights articulated in Costeja. Our web removals site was updated to include information about and a portal for RtbF requests. Requests are reviewed by the legal removals team; after review, the requester is notified of the determination. Since implementing this system, we have delisted approximately 780,000 URLs. Our process responds to individual requests and carefully evaluates  each request against the criteria for removal. We also notify websites when one of their pages has been removed pursuant to a RtbF claim. In addition to removing URLs, we include information about RtbF requests and removals in our Transparency Report.

Our assessors also provided us with recommendations for enhancing our implementation of the GNI Principles. These recommendations, combined with feedback and ongoing engagement with GNI stakeholders, will inform our policies and practices and strengthen our advocacy in 2017.

Reflecting on Google’s GNI Engagement

 As the year comes to a close, we’re reflecting on Google’s Global Network Initiative (GNI) assessment and some of this year’s important developments in our work to protect the free expression and privacy interests of our users.

Last week, in our continued effort to increase transparency around government demands for user data, we made available to the public the National Security Letters (NSLs) Google has received where, either through litigation or legislation, we have been freed of nondisclosure obligations. Our goal in doing so is to shed more light on the nature and scope of these requests. We’ve also supported policy efforts to ensure that the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons are addressed as U.S. policymakers consider government surveillance issues.

Earlier this month, we highlighted our efforts to comply with the right to be forgotten in Europe. For much of the last year, we’ve worked to defend the idea that each country should be able to balance freedom of expression and privacy in the way that country sees fit, and not according to another country’s interpretation. One Data Protection Authority, the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (the CNIL), ordered Google to delist French right to be forgotten removals for users everywhere. We agree with the CNIL that privacy is a fundamental right — but so, too, is the right to free expression. Any balance struck between those two rights must be accompanied by territorial limits, consistent with the basic principles of international law.

These are some examples of Google’s public policy work that illustrate our commitment to the freedom of expression and privacy rights of our users. We know that pressing global issues are best addressed in partnership with with key stakeholders — and the GNI is critical to Google’s efforts.

The GNI is at the core of our multi-stakeholder engagement on free expression and privacy issues. Google is proud to be a founding member of the GNI, an initiative that brings together ICT companies with civil society organizations, investors, and academics to define a shared approach to freedom of expression and privacy online. The GNI provides a framework for company operations, rooted in international standards; promotes accountability of ICT sector companies through independent assessment; enables multi-stakeholder policy engagement; and creates shared learning opportunities across stakeholder boundaries.

Earlier this year, GNI released the second round of assessments, and announced the board’s determination that Google is compliant with the GNI framework. The assessment is an important tool for companies, NGOs, academics, and others working together to review how companies address risks to privacy and free expression.

The assessment process includes a review of relevant internal systems, policies and procedures for implementing the GNI Principles (“the process review”), and an examination of specific cases or examples that show how the company is implementing them in practice (the “case review”).

Our cases were selected for their salience to our approach to implementing the GNI Principles, taking into consideration Google’s products and services, geographical footprint, operating environments, and human rights risk profile. In addition, to the Google-specific cases discussed in GNI’s public assessment report, we wanted to provide additional examples to illustrate the types of non-U.S. cases reviewed.

Request for user data
A request was made for Gmail user information by a federal police department. A key part of our process is making sure that the requests we receive are appropriately supported by legal process. In this case, we found that the initial request was inadequate due to failure to have a judicial stamp or signature, and we therefore pushed back, as we would not comply unless the request was judicially authorized. Once these items were obtained and, we determined that it was a valid legal request (including that it was not overbroad), we complied with the request.

Request for removal
A request for Blogger content removal was made by a regulatory agency. The requestor claimed that content was subject to removal under the country’s statute prohibiting appeals to mass riots, extremist activities, and mass actions against established order. In reviewing the request, we determined that the content did not violate our terms of service.  We then responded by requesting a copy of the decision citing specific URLs that are illegal. This would be evidence of an authoritative interpretation of the local law as applied to the content.  As there was no response from the requestor, and the content did not violate our company policies, the request was denied and we did not remove the material.

RTBF: Push for Judicial Review; Careful Development and Implementation of Rigorous Removal Process for Requests
This example describes how we responded to requests subsequent to the Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja ruling, which presented risks to freedom of expression. In the Costeja case, we appealed through the court process, but were unsuccessful.  We pushed back on this ruling because we considered the requirement for Google to take down this information to be in conflict with freedom of expression. On appeal, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that people have the right to ask for information to be removed from search results that include their names if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.” In deciding what to remove, search engines must also have regard to the public interest, without additional guidance regarding what information constitutes “public interest.” The court also decided that search engines don’t qualify for a “journalistic exception.” We continue to fight court cases seeking to expand this requirement for takedowns globally.

We also convened the Advisory Council to Google on the Right to be Forgotten to review input from dozens of experts in meetings across Europe, as well as from thousands of submissions via the Web. The Council included Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The Council advised us on performing the balancing act between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s interest in access to information.

In response to the Costeja ruling, Google established a dedicated team to develop and implement a system to remove valid RtbF requests. We evaluate each request appropriately, complying with the law, but making sure that, if there is a legal basis for the content to remain available, we will assess how that applies. To address the ruling, we assembled a team to address the new category of requests arising from the rights articulated in Costeja. Our web removals site was updated to include information about and a portal for RtbF requests. Requests are reviewed by the legal removals team; after review, the requester is notified of the determination. Since implementing this system, we have delisted approximately 780,000 URLs. Our process responds to individual requests and carefully evaluates  each request against the criteria for removal. We also notify websites when one of their pages has been removed pursuant to a RtbF claim. In addition to removing URLs, we include information about RtbF requests and removals in our Transparency Report.

Our assessors also provided us with recommendations for enhancing our implementation of the GNI Principles. These recommendations, combined with feedback and ongoing engagement with GNI stakeholders, will inform our policies and practices and strengthen our advocacy in 2017.

Reflecting on Google’s GNI Engagement

 As the year comes to a close, we’re reflecting on Google’s Global Network Initiative (GNI) assessment and some of this year’s important developments in our work to protect the free expression and privacy interests of our users.

Last week, in our continued effort to increase transparency around government demands for user data, we made available to the public the National Security Letters (NSLs) Google has received where, either through litigation or legislation, we have been freed of nondisclosure obligations. Our goal in doing so is to shed more light on the nature and scope of these requests. We’ve also supported policy efforts to ensure that the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons are addressed as U.S. policymakers consider government surveillance issues.

Earlier this month, we highlighted our efforts to comply with the right to be forgotten in Europe. For much of the last year, we’ve worked to defend the idea that each country should be able to balance freedom of expression and privacy in the way that country sees fit, and not according to another country’s interpretation. One Data Protection Authority, the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (the CNIL), ordered Google to delist French right to be forgotten removals for users everywhere. We agree with the CNIL that privacy is a fundamental right — but so, too, is the right to free expression. Any balance struck between those two rights must be accompanied by territorial limits, consistent with the basic principles of international law.

These are some examples of Google’s public policy work that illustrate our commitment to the freedom of expression and privacy rights of our users. We know that pressing global issues are best addressed in partnership with with key stakeholders — and the GNI is critical to Google’s efforts.

The GNI is at the core of our multi-stakeholder engagement on free expression and privacy issues. Google is proud to be a founding member of the GNI, an initiative that brings together ICT companies with civil society organizations, investors, and academics to define a shared approach to freedom of expression and privacy online. The GNI provides a framework for company operations, rooted in international standards; promotes accountability of ICT sector companies through independent assessment; enables multi-stakeholder policy engagement; and creates shared learning opportunities across stakeholder boundaries.

Earlier this year, GNI released the second round of assessments, and announced the board’s determination that Google is compliant with the GNI framework. The assessment is an important tool for companies, NGOs, academics, and others working together to review how companies address risks to privacy and free expression.

The assessment process includes a review of relevant internal systems, policies and procedures for implementing the GNI Principles (“the process review”), and an examination of specific cases or examples that show how the company is implementing them in practice (the “case review”).

Our cases were selected for their salience to our approach to implementing the GNI Principles, taking into consideration Google’s products and services, geographical footprint, operating environments, and human rights risk profile. In addition, to the Google-specific cases discussed in GNI’s public assessment report, we wanted to provide additional examples to illustrate the types of non-U.S. cases reviewed.

Request for user data
A request was made for Gmail user information by a federal police department. A key part of our process is making sure that the requests we receive are appropriately supported by legal process. In this case, we found that the initial request was inadequate due to failure to have a judicial stamp or signature, and we therefore pushed back, as we would not comply unless the request was judicially authorized. Once these items were obtained and, we determined that it was a valid legal request (including that it was not overbroad), we complied with the request.

Request for removal
A request for Blogger content removal was made by a regulatory agency. The requestor claimed that content was subject to removal under the country’s statute prohibiting appeals to mass riots, extremist activities, and mass actions against established order. In reviewing the request, we determined that the content did not violate our terms of service.  We then responded by requesting a copy of the decision citing specific URLs that are illegal. This would be evidence of an authoritative interpretation of the local law as applied to the content.  As there was no response from the requestor, and the content did not violate our company policies, the request was denied and we did not remove the material.

RTBF: Push for Judicial Review; Careful Development and Implementation of Rigorous Removal Process for Requests
This example describes how we responded to requests subsequent to the Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja ruling, which presented risks to freedom of expression. In the Costeja case, we appealed through the court process, but were unsuccessful.  We pushed back on this ruling because we considered the requirement for Google to take down this information to be in conflict with freedom of expression. On appeal, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that people have the right to ask for information to be removed from search results that include their names if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.” In deciding what to remove, search engines must also have regard to the public interest, without additional guidance regarding what information constitutes “public interest.” The court also decided that search engines don’t qualify for a “journalistic exception.” We continue to fight court cases seeking to expand this requirement for takedowns globally.

We also convened the Advisory Council to Google on the Right to be Forgotten to review input from dozens of experts in meetings across Europe, as well as from thousands of submissions via the Web. The Council included Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The Council advised us on performing the balancing act between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s interest in access to information.

In response to the Costeja ruling, Google established a dedicated team to develop and implement a system to remove valid RtbF requests. We evaluate each request appropriately, complying with the law, but making sure that, if there is a legal basis for the content to remain available, we will assess how that applies. To address the ruling, we assembled a team to address the new category of requests arising from the rights articulated in Costeja. Our web removals site was updated to include information about and a portal for RtbF requests. Requests are reviewed by the legal removals team; after review, the requester is notified of the determination. Since implementing this system, we have delisted approximately 780,000 URLs. Our process responds to individual requests and carefully evaluates  each request against the criteria for removal. We also notify websites when one of their pages has been removed pursuant to a RtbF claim. In addition to removing URLs, we include information about RtbF requests and removals in our Transparency Report.

Our assessors also provided us with recommendations for enhancing our implementation of the GNI Principles. These recommendations, combined with feedback and ongoing engagement with GNI stakeholders, will inform our policies and practices and strengthen our advocacy in 2017.

Sharing National Security Letters with the Public

In our continued effort to increase transparency around government demands for user data, today we begin to make available to the public the National Security Letters (NSLs) we have received where, either through litigation or legislation, we have been freed of nondisclosure obligations. We previewed this back in October when we updated our Transparency Report.

As we have described in the past, we have fought for the right to be transparent about our receipt of NSLs. This includes working with the government to publish statistics about NSLs we’ve received, successfully fighting NSL gag provisions in court, and leading the effort to ensure that Internet companies can be more transparent with users about the volume and scope of national security demands that we receive.   

In 2015, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which allowed companies like Google to make more granular disclosures  about National Security Letters they receive.  In addition, the Act restricts the use of indefinite gag restrictions that prevent providers from ever notifying customers or talking about the demands. The Department of Justice (DOJ) must now regularly review disclosure restrictions in NSLs and lift those that are no longer needed. The United States Attorney General approved procedures to do this, and as we mentioned recently, the FBI has started lifting gag restrictions on particular NSLs.

We are now making copies of those NSLs available.  Our goal in doing so is to shed more light on the nature and scope of NSLs. We minimized redactions to protect privacy interests, but the content of the NSLs remain as they were when served.  We are also publishing the correspondence reflecting the lifting of the nondisclosure restrictions. We have links to the documents below.  In the near future, we will establish a more permanent home for these and additional materials from our Transparency Report.  

Redacted NSLs and FBI correspondence

NSL-10-272979 (FBI notice)

NSL-13-375880 (FBI notice)

NSL-14-394627 (FBI notice)

NSL-14-395838 (FBI notice)

NSL-14-396103 (FBI notice)

NSL-14-396300 (FBI notice)

NSL-15-417535 (FBI notice)

NSL-15-418313 (FBI notice)

While we are encouraged by this development, we will remain vigilant in opposing legislation that would significantly expand the universe of information that can be obtained with an NSL.