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Building a safer internet, from Europe to Africa

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Whether searching for answers in Antwerp or Abidjan, people expect Google services to be designed with their safety in mind. And that’s especially true for the one third of the world’s internet-connected population who reside in the countries of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 


That’s why the region is also home to a steadily growing number of Google investments in digital safety, and teams who specialize in keeping the internet more secure.

A second global safety hub in Europe

In 2019, we opened the first Google Safety Engineering Center (GSEC) in Munich, acknowledging Europe’s role as a global hub of privacy and security engineering at Google. There, we’ve developed popular privacy tools like Privacy Checkup, a raft of security protections in our Chrome browser and techniques, such as differential privacy, which help add state-of-the-art anonymization into core Google products. 


Last month, we opened another GSEC, this time in Dublin, which will be a hub for Google experts tackling the spread of illegal and harmful content, and a place where we can share this work with policymakers, researchers and regulators. Like our work on privacy, content safety is a priority that we reinforce with concrete action, led by experts in the field.

Keeping people’s information safe

When people trust us with their personal information, it’s our responsibility to keep it safe. And we know people are worried about threats like hacking and COVID-19-related scams, and increasingly demanding that companies keep their private information private. Searches for “phishing” reached record levels in the UK, Italy and Spain last year, and in Germany, searches for “how secure is my password” doubled from 2019 to 2020.

It’s clear that in order for the open web to sustain its continued growth as the most important place for independent creation and commerce, its privacy and security practices must keep up with changing expectations. That’s why we recently joined outside experts from Euroconsumers, a group of five national consumer organizations representing more than 1.5 million people, in releasing a new joint report that spotlighted related concerns among internet users in Italy, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. As many as 69% of respondents told us they think the amount of personal data collected online makes it difficult for them to protect their privacy, with 21% feeling in control of what personal data is collected about them.

In initiatives like our partnership with Euroconsumers and our brick-and-mortar investments in GSEC, our goal is both understanding and follow-through: informing improvements that we actually build. Our teams at GSEC Munich have already rolled out new tools and a redesign of Chrome’s privacy and security settings, making it easier to manage cookies and the most sensitive website permissions. And, like many, we are encouraged by promising progress so far in the Privacy Sandbox, an open initiative introduced by Chrome to support a privacy-first future for web advertising — one that can promote growth in the web in Europe and beyond.

Helping people with knowledge and trainings

But safety and privacy tools also aren’t worth anything without supporting people in using them, which is why we back our safety engineering efforts with significant funding for local and grassroots programs to promote safety best practices. 

So, today we are announcing a new partnership with Injaz Al-Arab, a non-profit organization that aims to empower young people with digital skills, so that we can deliver safety trainings at scale to students across the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Morocco.

Helping innovative nonprofits and social enterprises with Google’s resources has long been the focus of Google.org, which last year used the occasion of Safer Internet Day to announce the $1,000,000 Africa Online Safety Fund. Today, we’re announcing the recipients: 26 groups across nine countries in Africa who have been selected to develop and scale new and existing projects combating online vulnerabilities, disinformation and extremism. 

We know these kinds of efforts can bear fruit. Take a look at some of the stories we’ve shared today of the 29 grant recipients of the Google.org Impact Challenge for Safety in Europe. We’re proud of these efforts and see it as core to our safety mission to support brilliant organizations in all regions of the world.  

To learn more about our resources to help keep you and your family safer, please visit the Google Safety Center.

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