Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Few New Interesting Posts on the Google Blog

Here are a few recent posts from the Official Google Blog which make for an interesting read if you have some time.

Making Terms of Service Clearer

"Last week's launch of Google Chrome generated some discussion over the legal language in our new browser's terms of service (TOS). As we noted in a subsequent post on Google Chrome's terms of service:
"... Under copyright law, Google needs what's called a "license" to display or transmit content. So to show a blog, we ask the user to give us a license to the blog's content. (The same goes for any other service where users can create content.) But in all these cases, the license is limited to providing the service."
We've also seen some discussion on a few blogs about how our universal terms of service apply to other products, with some users worried that Google is trying to claim ownership of the content they generate. To be clear: our terms do not claim ownership of your content -- what you create is yours and remains yours.

Bringing History Online, One Newspaper at a Time

"For more than 200 years, matters of local and national significance have been conveyed in newsprint -- from revolutions and politics to fashion to local weather or high school football scores. Around the globe, we estimate that there are billions of news pages containing every story ever written. And it's our goal to help readers find all of them, from the smallest local weekly paper up to the largest national daily.

The problem is that most of these newspapers are not available online. We want to change that.

Today, we're launching an initiative to make more old newspapers accessible and searchable online by partnering with newspaper publishers to digitize millions of pages of news archives.

Another Step to Protect User Privacy

"Today, we're announcing a new logs retention policy: we'll anonymize IP addresses on our server logs after 9 months. We're significantly shortening our previous 18-month retention policy to address regulatory concerns and to take another step to improve privacy for our users.

Back in March 2007, Google became the first leading search engine to announce a policy to anonymize our search server logs in the interests of privacy. And many others in the industry quickly followed our lead. Although that was good for privacy, it was a difficult decision because the routine server log data we collect has always been a critical ingredient of innovation. We have published a series of blog posts explaining how we use logs data for the benefit of our users: to make improvements to search quality, improve security, fight fraud and reduce spam.

Over the last two years, policymakers and regulators -- especially in Europe and the U.S. -- have continued to ask us (and others in the industry) to explain and justify this shortened logs retention policy. We responded by open letter to explain how we were trying to strike the right balance between sometimes conflicting factors like privacy, security, and innovation.

Update to Google Suggest

"There's been quite a bit of comment in the last few days about Google Suggest, particularly how it's used in Google Chrome. Google Suggest is actually built into a number of different products including Google Search, Google Toolbar, browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox, and the Google Search application on the iPhone.

...For 98% of these requests, we don't log any data at all and simply return the suggestions. For the remaining 2% of cases (which we select randomly), we do log data, like IP addresses, in order to monitor and improve the service.

However, given the concerns that have been raised about Google storing this information -- and its limited potential use -- we decided that we will anonymize it within about 24 hours (basically, as soon as we practically can) in the 2% of Google Suggest requests we use. This will take a little time to implement, but we expect it to be in place before the end of the month.

All data retention is a balance between user privacy and trust on the one hand, and security and innovation on the other. In the case of Google Suggest we decided it's possible to provide a great service while anonymizing data almost immediately. But in other cases - such as our core web search - storing data like IP addresses for a time is crucial to make improvements to search quality, improve security, fight fraud and reduce spam.

The Future of Search

"I am a search addict. I’m naturally inquisitive – I’ve always liked finding things out. Plus, I’ve worked at Google on search for the past 9 years and 3 months. Of course I search - a lot. Yet I would guess that on any given day, I only do about 20% of the searches that I could. This past Saturday, I kept track of the things that came up in conversation that I wanted to search for right then but couldn’t:
Looking at this list, two things are very clear: (1) I could do a lot more searches and (2) search still has a lot of opportunity for innovation, change, and progress. There are lots of ways that search will need to evolve in order to easily meet user needs. Let’s look at some of my unanswered questions from Saturday and consider how search might change over the next 10 years.

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