National: Google steps up security efforts as most campaigns use its email services | The Washington Post

Google has been stepping up its efforts to protect political campaigns against phishing attacks — one of the most pressing threats facing candidates as hackers continue to target them via email. U.S. political campaigns overwhelmingly use Google as their email provider, according to data collected by anti-phishing start-up Area1 Security. Of the 1,460 candidates the company is tracking who are running for the Senate, House of Representatives or governor, 65 percent use Google as their email provider. The 2018 midterms will be the first test of the security measures Google and other tech companies have adopted since Russian hackers successfully spear phished Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Hackers stole more than 50,000 of his emails after a click on a “change password” button on an email disguised as a security alert from Google.

Washington: State sues Facebook, Google over political ads | Associated Press

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday sued Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), saying the companies failed to maintain information about political advertising as required by state law. Washington law requires the companies to maintain information about buyers of political ads, the cost, how they pay for it and the candidate or ballot measure at issue, according to the lawsuits, filed in King County Superior Court on Monday. The companies also must make that information available to the public upon request. Ferguson said neither Facebook nor Google did so, even though Washington candidates and political committees have spent nearly $5 million to advertise on those platforms in the past decade.

Ireland: Anti-abortion campaigners dodge Google’s ad ban | The Guardian

Anti-abortion campaigners have sidestepped Google’s ban on online adverts relating to the referendum in Ireland on Friday, so as to promote their message on popular websites. This May the tech company banned paid messages relating to the referendum from appearing on its services, which dominates many aspects of online advertising. But campaigners have turned to alternative online ad sales platforms to push adverts to Irish readers of news sites. These sites have included the Atlantic, Washington Post and the Guardian, and ads have also been aimed at readers of women’s lifestyle websites and players of mobile games. Some of these ultimately use elements of Google technology to serve the adverts, despite the company’s commitment to pulling out of the referendum.

National: Jigsaw’s Project Shield Will Protect Campaigns From Online Attacks | WIRED

With midterm elections looming and primaries already underway in many states, anxiety has been building over the possibility of cyberattacks that could impact voting. Though officials and election security researchers alike are adamant that voters can trust the United States election system, they also acknowledge shortcomings of the current security setup. Little time remains to meaningfully improve election security before the midterms. But Google parent company Alphabet’s experimental incubator Jigsaw announced on Tuesday that it will start offering free protection from distributed denial of service attacks to US political campaigns. DDoS attacks overload a site or service with junk traffic so that legitimate users can’t access it. For the last two years, Jigsaw’s Project Shield has focused on fighting DDoS where it might be used for censorship around the world, offering free defenses to journalists, small publications, human rights groups, and election board sites. Now, those tremendous resources and that technical expertise will extend to political campaigns.

National: Google rolls out free cyberattack shield for elections and campaigns | CNET

For about an hour on the night of a primary election in May, residents in Knox County, Tennessee, couldn’t tell who was winning. Hackers had taken down the county’s election tracking website, crashing the page at 8 p.m., right as polls were closing. The county’s IT director, Dick Moran, said the website had seen “extremely heavy and abnormal network traffic.” Its mayor called for an investigation into the cyberattack. The incident showed all the signs of a distributed denial-of-service attack — when attackers flood a website’s servers with traffic until they can’t handle the incoming requests and crash. And it was just the kind of thing that Jigsaw, a tech incubator owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, wants to prevent. The company is already expecting even more DDoS attacks as Election Day in the US, on Nov. 6, draws closer. “We have seen that attacks spike in election cycles in different parts of the world,” said George Conard, a product manager for Jigsaw’s Project Shield.

Mexico: National Electoral Institute signs deal with Google | Riviera Maya News

 For the upcoming elections, Mexico’s National Electoral Institute has signed a deal with Google to help Mexican voters. The new deal with the Internet search giant will see them provide extensive information about electoral candidates while also providing citizens with voting-related services. Google will provide online information such as the location of ballot boxes through Google Maps, candidate information, live streaming of presidential debates via YouTube and even instructions on how to vote.

National: Fiery exchanges on Capitol Hill as lawmakers scold Facebook, Google and Twitter | The Washington Post

Senators from both parties took tech company officials to task in a hearing Wednesday for failing to better identify, defuse and investigate Russia’s campaign to manipulate American voters over social media during the 2016 presidential campaign. In the second of three Capitol Hill hearings this week on Russian’s online information operation, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee challenged Facebook, Google and Twitter in strikingly direct terms that, at times, seemed to carry the implicit threat of legislation that could rein in the nation’s wildly profitable technology industry. “I don’t think you get it,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), whose home state includes all three companies. “What we’re talking about is a cataclysmic change. What we’re talking about is the beginning of cyberwarfare. What we’re talking about is a major foreign power with sophistication and ability to involve themselves in a presidential election and sow conflict and discontent all over this country. We are not going to go away gentlemen. And this is a very big deal.”

National: Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms | The Washington Post

Google for the first time has uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited the company’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the company’s investigation. The Silicon Valley giant has found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that have not been made public. Google runs the world’s largest online advertising business, and YouTube is the world’s largest online video site. The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook — a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.

National: Google Prepares to Brief Congress on Its Role in Election | The New York Times

Google has become the latest Silicon Valley giant to become entangled in a widening investigation into how online social networks and technology products may have played a role in Russian interference in the 2016 election. On Friday evening, Google said it would cooperate with congressional inquiries into the election, days after Facebook and Twitter provided evidence to investigators of accounts on their networks that were linked to Russian groups. Google was called to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Nov. 1. Google has also begun an internal investigation into whether its advertising products and services were used as part of a Russia-linked influence campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke anonymously because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the issue. Exactly when the inquiry began is not known, but it has been discussed inside Google over recent weeks, the person said. The Wall Street Journal reported the internal investigation earlier.

National: Google’s search engine directs voters to the ballot box |

Google is pulling another lever on its influential search engine in an effort to boost voter turnout in November’s U.S. presidential election. Beginning Tuesday, Google will provide a summary box detailing state voting laws at the top of the search results whenever a user appears to be looking for that information. The breakdown will focus on the rules particular to the state where the search request originates unless a user asks for another location. Google is introducing the how-to-vote instructions a month after it unveiled a similar feature that explains how to register to vote in states across the U.S.
The search giant said its campaign is driven by rabid public interest in the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As of last week, it said, the volume of search requests tied to the election, the candidates and key campaign issues had more than quadrupled compared to a similar point in the 2012 presidential race.

National: Google Search To Offer State-Specific Voter Registration Guide Ahead Of 2016 Elections | Tech Times

With the election season just around the corner in the U.S., Google is getting in on the action and looking to make things easier for prospective voters. Google Search will simplify the registration process for voters as it will offer state-specific voter registration guides prior to the 2016 presidential elections in November. On Monday, July 18, the Alphabet subsidiary will push out the new search functionality, which will aid users in registering to vote before the elections. “Starting on Monday, we’re introducing a new tool in Search to simplify the voter registration process to make it easier for you to have your voice heard,” revealed Google on July 15. When you type “register to vote” or a similar query in Google Search post July 18, you will be greeted with state-specific and in-depth guidelines on how you can register to vote, the eligibility criteria and the deadline for your state. All these details will be reflected at the top of the search page, as well as the Google app.

National: Can Google steal elections? Researchers say yes (in theory) | The Charlotte Observer

When President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address Tuesday night, he’ll mention an array of programs and people. And all across America, fingers will start flying on computer keyboards as millions of curious viewers go to Google or Bing or Yahoo in search of more detail on those programs and people. It’s the way we make sense of the world around us in the Internet age. Everything’s on the web; just look it up and you’ll be enlightened, right? Not necessarily, say the authors of a 2015 study into the ways search engines can influence voter behavior, and perhaps even the outcomes of elections. Depending on how the search engine results are displayed, or if they are manipulated, you could end up misguided rather than enlightened.

Editorials: How Facebook and Google’s Algorithms Are Affecting Our Political Viewpoints | Megan Anderle/Huffington Post

Plenty of users take what they read online at face value, which some social experiments have proven. The average user often doesn’t check facts or consider whether the source is credible. “You look at a Wikipedia article and assume that it all must be true,” said Christo Wilson, a computer science professor at Northeastern University who researched algorithms and personalization extensively. “Or you search for something on Google and think the results are subjective and correct off the bat.” And then there are algorithms on top of every social network and search engine, providing users with personalized, and ultimately skewed, results. Algorithms are a mystery to researchers.

National: Google influence on 2016 election | Business Insider

Google has an enormous amount of power through its ability to manipulate search rankings. The company can make or break a brand or website by making minor tweaks to its algorithms. There’s an entire science devoted to interpreting every move Google makes because even subtle changes can make a huge difference. Google has always maintained that the goal of its endless tinkering is delivering the best search results possible. That seems to be true and the search giant famously has a “you can make money without doing evil,” policy, but just because it currently has good intentions does not mean it always will. The company’s success and its ability to control where people go on the Internet put it into a place where it could impact the next president of the United States. There’s no reason to believe Google intends to rig the coming election, but it has that power according to a Politico essay written by Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today.

Editorials: How Google Could Rig the 2016 Election | Robert Epstein/Politico

America’s next president could be eased into office not just by TV ads or speeches, but by Google’s secret decisions, and no one—except for me and perhaps a few other obscure researchers—would know how this was accomplished. Research I have been directing in recent years suggests that Google, Inc., has amassed far more power to control elections—indeed, to control a wide variety of opinions and beliefs—than any company in history has ever had. Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups—with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated, according to experiments I conducted recently with Ronald E. Robertson. Given that many elections are won by small margins, this gives Google the power, right now, to flip upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide. In the United States, half of our presidential elections have been won by margins under 7.6 percent, and the 2012 election was won by a margin of only 3.9 percent—well within Google’s control. There are at least three very real scenarios whereby Google—perhaps even without its leaders’ knowledge—could shape or even decide the election next year. Whether or not Google executives see it this way, the employees who constantly adjust the search giant’s algorithms are manipulating people every minute of every day. The adjustments they make increasingly influence our thinking—including, it turns out, our voting preferences.

Canada: Manipulated search engine results could sway elections, research suggests | Metro News

In a tight election campaign there’s no telling what will separate the winners from the losers on voting day. A key policy announcement, an embarrassing gaffe or an impressive debate performance can end up making all the difference. But according to a new U.S. study, there’s an untapped force that has the potential to be just as decisive as any of those: Internet search rankings. Research published this month in the academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that search engine results could have a powerful effect on how people vote. It determined that if search rankings were manipulated to allow a preferred candidate to dominate the top results, it could shift voting preferences of undecided voters by at least 20 per cent.

National: Google’s Search Algorithm Could Steal the Presidency | Wired

Imagine an election – a close one. You’re undecided. So you type the name of one of the candidates into your search engine of choice. (Actually, let’s not be coy here. In most of the world, one search engine dominates; in Europe and North America, it’s Google.) And Google coughs up, in fractions of a second, articles and facts about that candidate. Great! Now you are an informed voter, right? But a study published this week says that the order of those results, the ranking of positive or negative stories on the screen, can have an enormous influence on the way you vote. And if the election is close enough, the effect could be profound enough to change the outcome. In other words: Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.” Epstein’s paper combines a few years’ worth of experiments in which Epstein and his colleague Ronald Robertson gave people access to information about the race for prime minister in Australia in 2010, two years prior, and then let the mock-voters learn about the candidates via a simulated search engine that displayed real articles.

Voting Blogs: Voting Information Project makes official data available wherever voters look for it – online | electionlineWeekly

In 2008, The Pew Charitable Trusts and Google realized voters were having trouble finding accurate voting information. Millions of people were looking for answers to three main questions: “Where do I vote?”, “What’s on my ballot?”, and “How do I navigate the election process?” but no standardized, reliable, and official source for this information existed. Pew partnered with Google and the states to address the issue by creating the Voting Information Project (VIP). Pew works on VIP with state election officials to develop cutting-edge solutions to standardize and publish the data, and Google and other partners have ensured that voters find data where they’re looking for it most — online. The results of this partnership have been dramatic. During the 2014 general election, official information provided by VIP was accessed an estimated 31 million times from a variety of sources, including: Google products, such as Search; customized tools on the websites of national organizations such as the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Rock the Vote, and the League of Women Voters; or, on one of over 1,500 websites that housed VIP’s white-label voting information tool.

National: How Google Could Give 2016 Hopefuls an Edge | Wall Street Journal

Iowans can expect to see a lot more of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker popping up in their Google browsers, if he decides to run for president later this year. That’s because the Walker team advertised aggressively on the popular search engine during his 2014 re-election and will likely do so again, should he pursue a White House bid. They spent heavily on Google ads to raise money and target voters. The Walker campaign was so aggressive in 2014 that Google highlighted its efforts in a just-released case study about the midterm campaigns. Among the findings: Mr. Walker’s re-election team raised more money from ads pegged to Google searches than it spent to buy space above those search results, an unusually high return-on-investment for political campaigns; his team also worked with the company to reach more than 5 million targeted voters in key ZIP codes through YouTube ads in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

National: Google integrates location-aware voter ID requirements into its search results | The Washington Post

As debate rolls on over the impact of voter identification laws on elections in the United States, a new wrinkle has quietly been introduced: a little search engine you might have heard of called Google. Starting Thursday, users across the United States who use Google to search for information on whether they might need a driver’s license or other form of ID to cast a ballot at their local polling place will be presented with the nitty-gritty details of the oft-complicated voting identification requirements and laws — specified down to whatever spot in the country from which he or she happens to be searching.

Voting Blogs: States, counties, NGOs roll out more technology to help voters | electionlineWeekly

With the primary season in full swing, it has been a busy spring for state and local elections offices in their efforts to make voting/registering easier for citizens. Like the trees and flowers coming into season, new websites and mobile apps have been blooming from coast to coast. For some a lot of this may be old hat, but it’s important to take notice of these new apps/sites to highlight the progress being made in the elections field; and to encourage others who may late bloomers to get the ball rolling with their own tech improvements. What follows is a snapshot of what some counties, states and voter advocacy organizations have done lately to make voting and/or registering to vote easier. In Connecticut, Secretary of State Denise Merrill recently announced that a mobile app for the state’s new online voter registration system is available. The app — for smartphone or tablet — is available through Google Play and Apple. Since OVR launched in February, more than 2,000 Connecticut residents have registered to vote or updated their registration. Merrill hopes the new app will increase those numbers.

International: Research in India suggests Google search results can influence an election | Washington Post

Google long ago went from being a mere directory of the Internet to a shaper of online reality, helping determine what we see and how. But what power does Google have over the “real” world – and especially the volatile one of closely contested elections? Psychologist Robert Epstein has been researching this question and says he is alarmed at what he has discovered. His most recent experiment, whose findings were released Monday, found that search engines have the potential to profoundly influence voters without them noticing the impact. Epstein has coined a term for this power: Search Engine Manipulation Effect, with the acronym SEME. Epstein, former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today and a vocal critic of Google, has not produced evidence that this or any other search engine has intentionally deployed this power. But the new experiment builds on his earlier work by measuring SEME in the concrete setting of India’s national election, whose voting concludes Monday.

South Africa: Elections Hub Launched Online |

Google has launched an online portal where voters, journalists and campaigners can easily track all the latest news, trends and information related to the 2014 elections. The South African Elections Hub serves as a one-stop site for voters to access election-related information, including party and candidate information, where to vote, real-time election news, search trends and some of the most engaging elections-related YouTube videos from a wide range of political parties, media and civil society. The Elections Hub is also mobile-friendly. Google has worked with a range of stakeholders including media, civil society organisations and political parties, enabling them to use technology to innovate during the elections and allow voters and politicians to share, discuss, and make informed decisions.

India: Silicon Valley is using India’s elections as a PR exercise—and it’s working | Quartz

If you lived in New Delhi and went out to vote today, you could have used Uber’s recently launched India service to get there and back for free. All you’d need to do is enter a promo code into the Uber app to get two rides worth up to Rs 1,000 ($16.60) between 7am and 7pm. You wouldn’t even need to vote. And the thing is, it actually wouldn’t make much sense to use the codes to vote—the maximum distance a voter needs to travel to get to a polling booth in Delhi is 2 km (1.25 miles), a much smaller fare. The California-based transportation network’s promotional deal may end up having the perverse effect of encouraging voters to skip voting and go see friends instead—specially since election day is a holiday in Delhi. Uber probably has good intentions, even if the execution leads to undesirable outcomes. Its Silicon Valley peers Google and Facebook are also using India’s elections as an excuse to build their brands, but their exploitation of the aura of significance that surrounds voting in the world’s largest democracy is arguably more pernicious. Those companies are using the elections to sell a beguiling myth: that the internet promotes democracy. The reality is more complicated, as the outcome of the Arab Spring has shown, and as polemical thinkers such as Evgeny Morozov have argued.

India: Electoral commission dumps Google over spying fears | iTnews

The Indian Election Commission dropped plans on Thursday to partner Google on a project to ease voter access to information, after a backlash against the move from campaigners who fear Google and the US government could use it for spying. India, the world’s largest democracy, will go to the polls in a general election due by May. Google, the world’s No.1 search engine, had pitched a project to the Election Commission to create a simpler and faster search tool for voters to check whether they were registered correctly or not. But the plan was opposed by the Indian Infosec Consortium, a government and private sector-backed alliance of cyber security experts, who feared Google would collaborate with “American agencies” for espionage purposes.

India: Election Commission drops tie-up plan with Google | Business Line

The Election Commission has decided not to pursue its proposed tie-up with internet giant Google after concerns over national security were raised from several quarters, including major parties. US-based Google had earlier this week made a formal presentation to the Election Commission proposing a tie-up with it for voter facilitation services ahead of Lok Sabha elections. The Commission, at its meeting here today which was attended by Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath and Election Commissioners H.S. Brahma and S.N.A. Zaidi, deliberated on the issue and decided not to go ahead. “After due consideration, the Commission has decided not to pursue it any further,” said an EC official.

India: Election Commission drops plan to partner Google after spying fears | Reuters

The Election Commission dropped plans on Thursday to partner Google Inc on a project to ease voter access to information, after a backlash against the move from campaigners who fear Google and the U.S. government could use it for spying. India, the world’s largest democracy, will go to the polls in a general election due by May. Google (GOOG.O), the world’s No.1 search engine, had pitched a project to the Election Commission to create a simpler and faster search tool for voters to check whether they were registered correctly or not. But the plan was opposed by the Indian Infosec Consortium, a government and private sector-backed alliance of cyber security experts, who feared Google would collaborate with “American agencies” for espionage purposes. The Election Commission did not officially give a reason for dropping the plan. But an official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters that Google’s proposal was not a major improvement on its existing website, and that Google’s involvement had drawn criticism in India.

India: Tie-up of Election Commission and Google sparks security fears | Hindustan Times

Indian software professionals have expressed their worry at the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) project to register fresh voters by using the services of software behemoth Google. Warning that data collected by Google has been frequently used by American spy agency, the NSA, this consortium of professionals has sent a letter to the chief election commissioner pointing out this “security breach. At a time when the world is concerned about the security of sensitive data, a Constitutional authority like the ECI is making it readily available to a foreign company,” Jiten Jain from the consortium. “The government has said that no sensitive data of Indians will ever be shared with foreign servers. But the ECI will hand over names, IP addresses, cell phone numbers, residential addresses and all other kinds of sensitive data to Google for this project. This should have been cleared by Indian security agencies first.”

India: Google-Election Commission tie-up talks alarm cyber group | Business Standard

Cyber security professionals have raised an alarm about the potential danger to national security, even before the Election Commission (EC) formally announces a tie-up with US technology giant Google. The poll panel has been in talks with the internet firm’s India office to allow voters to easily search for their details on electoral lists. The company had also proposed to build an application for voters to get road directions to polling stations through Google Maps. It was also reported last week that Google would help EC manage online voter registrations before the Lok Sabha elections this year. “This will lead to a goldmine of intelligence,” said Jiten Jain, a member of the Indian Infosec Consortium (IIC), an association of professionals working in the field of cyber security and are critics of the proposed relationship between EC and Google. He added that citizens will have to provide their email addresses and mobile numbers for new voter registrations. That, combined with Google’s other technology offerings like email, search, maps, etc could aid in building profiles of voters which could invade their privacy.

Iran: Gmail users targeted in pre-election hacking campaign | Reuters

Tens of thousands of Gmail accounts belonging to Iranian users have been targeted in an extensive hacking campaign in the weeks leading up to the country’s closely watched presidential elections on Friday, Google Inc said on Wednesday. The U.S. Internet company, which described the attacks as broad “email-based phishing” attempts seeking to trick unsuspecting Gmail users into giving up their user names and passwords, said they originated in Iran and appeared to be “politically motivated in connection with the Iranian presidential election on Friday.”