Google to state its case on public policy blog

Company will use new forum to discuss policy issues and seek user input

Google, which has been working to ward off questions about its privacy policies and defend its YouTube subsidiary against a US$1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit filed in March by Viacom, Monday launched a blog that it will use to address those and other public policy issues -- and to try to enlist the aid of Internet users in its lobbying efforts.

Andrew McLaughlin, director of public policy and government affairs at Google, wrote in a posting on the new blog that it will be used to disseminate the company's views and to gather comments from users on topics such as privacy, the safety of children online, copyright and trademark protection, content regulation and patent reform.

Such issues are "fundamental" to the future of the Internet and its users "and are increasingly prominent on the agendas of policymakers worldwide," McLaughlin wrote.

The blog, which was started internally in April and includes comments that have been posted by Google employees since then, will also feature postings on topics such as Net neutrality, censorship, national security, immigration and trade, according to McLaughlin.

"We're seeking to do public policy advocacy in a Googley way," he wrote. "Yes, we're a multinational corporation that argues for our positions before officials, legislators and opinion leaders. At the same time, we want our users to be part of the effort, to know what we're saying and why, and to help us refine and improve our policy positions and advocacy strategies."

Google has faced several recent challenges on the public policy front. This month, the company announced plans to make the data it stores about end users in its server logs anonymous after 18 months, in response to complaints from the European Union's data protection working group regarding Google's privacy policies.

In addition, Privacy International, a London-based watchdog group that focuses on privacy and surveillance issues, ranked Google worse than any other Internet company in protecting the privacy of users, in an interim report released this month. A final version of the report is scheduled for release in September.

Meanwhile, Viacom claimed as part of its copyright infringement lawsuit that about 160,000 of its video clips have been posted on the YouTube Web site without its authorization. Google, which acquired YouTube last fall, has denied the infringement claims, saying it provides tools to help copyright holders find protected material on the video-sharing site and uses technology to prevent clips from being reposted after they have been removed.

One of the first external comments posted on Google's new blog was written by Scott Cleland, president of consulting firm Precursor and chairman of its NetCompetition.org subsidiary, which runs an online forum on Net neutrality issues. Cleland, who pens a blog of his own, wrote in his posting on Google's blog that it's "about time for Google to be more specific on the issue of net neutrality."

He went on to ask: "Will Google, which has 65 percent share of the primary Internet access technology called search, agree to be subject to any 'Internet access' regulations that Google proposes for [its] broadband competitors? In other words, will Google be willing to eat its own pro-regulatory cooking? If not, why not?"

Another comment, posted by an individual identified as Philipp Lenssen, referenced Google's policy of sometimes censoring content in accordance with local laws and regulations. The comment asked Google to post information describing the legal or technical channels that any censorship requests in Germany, France and China go through before being put in place on the local versions of Google's Web site.

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld

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