As a company built on information, protecting the integrity and credibility of that information is imprinted in Google’s DNA. That’s especially true when it comes to protecting election information.
Trustworthy elections, in which the outcome can be counted upon and trusted, are the backbone of democracy. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in the frequency and sophistication of digital attacks against individuals and organizations that jeopardize the validity of election information and the democratic process overall. As a company that has invested heavily in the privacy and the security of our users, we’re committed to helping equip public institutions and citizens with the tools they need to defend information when it matters most.
That’s why leading up to the 2020 elections we doubled down on our commitment to enhance election security for campaigns, candidates, journalists and voters. We did this not only through providing the tools and technology to help, but also through meaningful collaborations with third parties and public organizations.
Building the right tools to defend elections
Last year, we created Protect Your Election, a suite of free tools to help candidates, campaign workers, journalists and election officials protect their accounts and platforms from attacks that can threaten account and site security. We focused on how to mitigate against the most pervasive attacks — such as DDoS and phishing attacks. Advanced Protection protects accounts from malicious or insecure apps, limiting which third-party apps can access sensitive data — emails, contacts and files. And Project Shield, created by Jigsaw and Google, provides free unlimited protection against Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, a type of digital attack used to censor information by taking websites offline. Together these tools and others put the ability to defend information into the hands of those who are high-risk targets.
Simultaneously, our teams work around the clock to protect the platforms that people rely upon. Our Trust and Safety teams span the globe to monitor and disrupt account hijacking, disinformation campaigns, coordinated attacks, and other forms of abuse on our platforms on a 24/7 basis.
Working together to make democracy run
Not only does election security require the right technology and tools, but it also requires full civic participation and cooperation. This responsibility should be shared across federal, state and local government and the private sector entities. One of the projects we supported this year was the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School Election Cybersecurity Initiative. This nonpartisan program was designed to help campaigns, academics, elected officials and NGOs prepare for election-related security challenges. With our support, USC developed a comprehensive curriculum, built a robust training network and is currently leading election security training across all fifty states. We also supported the Defending Digital Democracy Project's cybersecurity playbook, led by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, to provide best practices for campaign teams to keep their information safe.
All of this work helped bring the most relevant and helpful information directly to the entities that needed it most, and there remains much more to be done in collaboration with stakeholders across society. Amid the growing erosion of public trust in election security, getting the message out about where our work is succeeding, and where challenges remain, is a priority for every organization committed to this effort. While the mark of any good democracy is vibrant debate, the other component — and one that crosses the political and philosophic spectrum — involves safeguarding the integrity of our elections — and at Google we remain steadfastly committed to doing our part.
Corey duBrowa is Vice President of Global Communications and Public Affairs at Google. He is a member of the USC Annenberg Center for PR Board of Advisors.