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Today we’re joined by Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots & Shoots program. In this post, Dr. Goodall shares her thoughts on how today’s technology can enable more people around the world to make a difference in their communities. Join Dr. Goodall for a celebratory Birthday Hangout on Air today at 11 a.m. PDT/2 p.m. EDT. -Ed.

When I first set foot on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1960 to study chimpanzee behavior, I carried with me notebooks, pencils and a pair of second-hand binoculars. I was, at the time, a young woman with no scientific training, but had a strong passion for learning about animals in Africa. In later years I founded the Jane Goodall Institute, dedicated to preserving the habitat of chimpanzees and other animals worldwide.
The author connects with a member of the Kasakela chimpanzee community in Gombe.

Google+ Auto Awesome is all about fun surprises that bring your photos to life. And whether it’s Benedict Cumberbatch at the Oscars or Michelle Obama at the White House, a celebrity photobomb is the ultimate surprise, turning an ordinary photo into something extraordinary.

Now with Auto Awesome Photobombs, you too can get a celebrity photobomb—no red carpet required. We’re starting with surprise appearances by +David Hasselhoff, everyone’s favorite crime-fighting rockstar lifeguard.

Watch your step! The Hoff joins these adventurous hikers at Machu PicchuThe Hoff rides the waves in Big Sur
The Hoff enjoys a breezy afternoon by the San Francisco Bay

While we’ve always known how important transparency is when it comes to government requests, the events of the past year have underscored just how urgent the issue is. From being the first company to disclose information about National Security Letters to fighting for the ability to publish more about FISA requests, we’ve continually advocated for your right to know.

Today, we’re updating our Transparency Report for the ninth time. This updated Report details the number of government requests we received for user information in criminal investigations during the second half of 2013. Government requests for user information in criminal cases have increased by about 120 percent since we first began publishing these numbers in 2009. Though our number of users has grown throughout the time period, we’re also seeing more and more governments start to exercise their authority to make requests.

We consistently push back against overly broad requests for your personal information, but it’s also important for laws to explicitly protect you from government overreach. That’s why we’re working alongside eight other companies to push for surveillance reform, including more transparency. We’ve all been sharing best practices about how to report the requests we receive, and as a result our Transparency Report now includes governments that made less than 30 requests during a six-month reporting period, in addition to those that made 30+ requests.

Also, people have been asking about how we respond to search warrants in the U.S., so we’ve created an entertaining video to explain in plain language how this process works. We apply the same rigorous standards presented in this video to every request we receive, regardless of type.

You deserve to know when and how governments request user information online, and we’ll keep fighting to make sure that’s the case.

Posted by Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security

Since getting online, Green Mountain Bee Farm in Fairfax, Vt. experienced a 5x increase in sales, and Christine Fitzpatrick Hair and Makeup in Birmingham, Mich. attracted 50 percent more clients. Getting online can make a big difference for small businesses—and stronger businesses makes for stronger communities. Online businesses are expected to grow 40 percent faster and create twice as many jobs as those that aren’t online,* but more than half of America’s small businesses currently don’t have a website.

That’s the inspiration behind Get Your Business Online Week, when we come together with local partners to get businesses in our communities online and growing. Starting today, we’ll broadcast free virtual workshops for business owners, available to anyone with an Internet connection. Here’s a glimpse of what you can look forward to:

Conversations with businesses that have prospered online, like Barkbox, GoldieBlox and Dollar Shave ClubStep-by-step demos on building a website and getting found on Search and MapsInterviews with small business experts like SmallBizLady Melinda EmersonWorkshops on Google tools for businesses (Google Apps, Google Trends, Google Alerts), online advertising (AdWords), and measuring your success online (Analytics)Free help and advice from experts over Helpouts by Google
We’re also teaming up with small business organizations across the country including local chambers of commerce, Small Business Development Centers and SCORE chapters to host live broadcasts of our trainings. You can find a screening closest to you on our website.

We’re excited to welcome small business everywhere to join us for this special week. Even if you don’t own a business, we encourage you to take part by spreading the word and inviting your favorite businesses to sign up.
See you on the web!

Posted by Amber Shapiro, on behalf of the Get Your Business Online team

*Source: BCG Report, “The Connected World: The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity,” March 2012

The Google Journalism Fellowship connects students interested in using technology to tell stories in new ways to the organizations that are pushing the boundaries of newsgathering and reporting. Over 10 weeks, Fellows work on projects ranging from building interactive news apps to researching stories, finding data and writing code. In this post, one of last year’s Fellows, Jan Lauren Boyles, shares her perspective on the benefits of the program and what this year’s Fellows stand to get out of it. -Ed.

At first, I thought it was just my imagination.

In the middle of my exams for my doctorate at American University last year, I got a call from the Pew Research Center offering me a Google Journalism Fellowship. Low on sleep, my first thought: “Was this offer all just a reverie, rendered by my foggy mind?”

In some ways, it turned out that that call really was the beginning of a dream.

I had applied for the Fellowship because I wanted to work with the brightest minds in media research and broaden my understanding of the intersections between journalism and technology. I was thrilled to work with leading experts at Pew Research to collect and analyze data that examined how social media is transforming the way Americans consume and share news. I also had a chance to learn from Google’s own mapping and data visualization specialists. But I never imagined we’d also shadow an editorial meeting at The Miami Herald, discuss the future of news with Knight Foundation staff, talk directly with news startup leaders and take part in a design sprint at a CIR/Google conference around data and the news.
The 2013 Google Journalism Fellows. The author is third from the right.
Many of the inaugural class of Google Fellows has gone on to carve out careers in the newsrooms of the 21st century. The Fellowship helped me land a full-time position at the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project as a research associate—a dream job, where I’ll use various research methods—from surveys to content analysis to good ol’ reporting—to help examine how news and information functions today. One key project that I’ll work on this year will be a deep examination of the flow of local news in society today.

Now a new class of Google Fellows gets a chance to fulfill their own dreams. These 11 students are people to watch—young scholars, computer scientists and practitioners who will likely create new journalism products and platforms that will change our engagement with news in the digital age.

This year’s organizations and Fellows are:

Center for Investigative Reporting – Emmanuel Martinez, University of Southern California and Suyeon Son, Northwestern UniversityCommittee to Protect Journalists – Rachael Levy, CUNY Graduate School of JournalismInvestigative Reporters & Editors – Aram Chung, Columbia University Graduate School of JournalismNieman Journalism Lab – Liam Andrew, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyPew Research Journalism Project – Alex T. Williams, University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for CommunicationPoynter – Benjamin Mullin, California State University, ChicoPRI.org – David Conrad, University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for CommunicationProPublica – Yue Qiu, Columbia Graduate School of JournalismSunlight Foundation – Stan Oklobdzija, UC San DiegoTexas Tribune – Jessica Hamel, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Congratulations to this year’s Fellows! We look forward to the energy you’ll bring to the host organizations this summer—and to watching your dreams become a reality.

Posted by Jan Lauren Boyles, Research Associate at Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project

Your email is important to you, and making sure it stays safe and always available is important to us. As you go about your day reading, writing and checking messages, there are tons of security measures running behind the scenes to keep your email safe, secure, and there whenever you need it.

Starting today, Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email. Gmail has supported HTTPS since the day it launched, and in 2010 we made HTTPS the default. Today’s change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail’s servers—no matter if you’re using public WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet.

In addition, every single email message you send or receive—100 percent of them—is encrypted while moving internally. This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail’s servers, but also as they move between Google’s data centers—something we made a top priority after last summer’s revelations.

Of course, being able to access your email is just as important as keeping it safe and secure. In 2013, Gmail was available 99.978 percent of the time, which averages to less than two hours of disruption for a user for the entire year. Our engineering experts look after Google’s services 24×7 and if a problem ever arises, they’re on the case immediately. We keep you informed by posting updates on the Apps Status Dashboard until the issue is fixed, and we always conduct a full analysis on the problem to prevent it from happening again.

Our commitment to the security and reliability of your email is absolute, and we’re constantly working on ways to improve. You can learn about additional ways to keep yourself safe online, like creating strong passwords and enabling 2-step verification, by visiting the Security Center: https://www.google.com/help/security.

Posted by Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail Security Engineering Lead

Cross-posted from the Official Gmail Blog

Chromecast: now casting in 11 more countries

Superheroes, cliff divers, fearless reporters or pop icons—whatever you like to watch, Chromecast makes it easy to bring it from a phone, tablet or laptop to the biggest screen in your house: the TV. Since announcing Chromecast in the U.S., we’ve grown to include more of your favorite apps and websites. Those numbers will continue to grow, and we want to bring Chromecast to more people around the world. Today Chromecast is available in an additional 11 countries—Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the U.K.

In addition to your favorite apps like YouTube, Google Play Movies, Google Play Music and Netflix (where available), we’re working with local content providers to bring even more of the movies and TV shows you love to Chromecast. Apps will start rolling out today, and include BBC iPlayer in the U.K.; France TV Pluzz and SFR TV in France with CANALPLAY coming soon; and Watchever in Germany with Maxdome coming soon. So instead of huddling around your laptop to watch Sherlock solve the next crime or getting caught up on all the workplace drama in Stromberg, you can cast it, sit back, and watch together on the big screen.

Chromecast will keep getting better. We recently opened up Chromecast to developers, and in a few short weeks more than 3,000 developers worldwide have signed up to bring their apps and websites to Chromecast. You’ll soon have more TV shows, movies, videos, sports, music and games to choose from. Stay up-to-date on the latest apps that work with Chromecast at chromecast.com/apps.

So if you’re in one of these 11 countries, look for Chromecast starting today at Amazon, Google Play, Currys PC World, Elkjøp, FNAC, Saturn, Media Markt and other retailers.

Happy casting!

Posted by Mario Queiroz, Vice President of Product Management, Chromecast

Most of us are rarely without our smartphones in hand. These powerful supercomputers keep us connected to the world and the people we love. But we’re only at the beginning; we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with mobile technology. That’s why we’re so excited about wearables—they understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word.

Android Wear: Information that moves with you

A browser that paints the sky

Today, residents of Vancouver, Canada, will notice a new addition to their scenic waterfront: an interactive artwork on one of the largest textile sculptures ever. The piece, entitled Unnumbered Sparks, is a collaboration between artist

Save more with Google Drive

Having launched Google Drive just two years ago, we’re excited that so many people are now using it as their go-to place for keeping all their files. Whether it’s all the footage of your kids’ baseball games, the novel you’re working on, or even just your grocery list for the week, we all have files that are too important to lose. Today, thanks to a number of recent infrastructure improvements, we’re able to make it more affordable for you to keep everything safe and easy to reach on any device, from anywhere.

We’ve lowered the price of our monthly storage plans to $1.99 for 100GB (previously $4.99), $9.99 for 1TB (previously $49.99), and $99.99 for 10TB, with even more storage available if you need it. How big is a terabyte anyway? Well, that’s enough storage for you to take a selfie twice a day for the next 200 years and still have room left over for… shall we say… less important things. Like before, storage continues to work across Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photos. And, of course, the 15GB plan remains free.

You can sign up for one of these new Google Drive plans at www.google.com/settings/storage. If you already pay for storage, you’ll automatically move to a better plan at no additional cost. You can visit the storage purchase page to make a change or review your account, and see the Help Center for more information on these simpler storage options.

Posted by Scott Johnston, Director of Product Management

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