In their first letter to shareholders, our founders highlighted Google’s goal to “develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible.” This vision continues to guide all of us at Google. We believe in technology’s power and potential to have a profoundly positive impact across the world.
In everything we do, including launching new products and expanding our operations around the globe, we are guided by internationally recognised human rights standards. We are committed to respecting the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its implementing treaties, as well as upholding the standards established in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and in the Global Network Initiative Principles (GNI Principles).
In addition to actively harnessing the power of technology to advance human rights and create new opportunities for people across the globe, we are committed to responsible decision-making around emerging technologies.
EXECUTIVE OVERSIGHT AND BOARD GOVERNANCE
Google's work on civil rights and human rights is conducted through our human rights programme, a central function responsible for ensuring – across Google and all of its products (such as hardware, Search, Cloud and YouTube) – that we are meeting our commitment to the UNGPs, GNI Principles, and other civil and human rights instruments.
Senior management oversees the implementation of the civil rights and human rights work and provides regular updates to the Audit and Compliance Committee of Alphabet’s Board of Directors. In 2020, the Board amended the charter of the Audit and Compliance Committee to explicitly include oversight of civil and human rights issues.
As we grow as a company, we continue to enhance and evolve our implementation of our human rights commitments. For example, we are establishing a Human Rights Executive Council (HREC) to provide oversight and guidance to our human rights programme on global human rights and domestic civil rights in the US. Council members will represent key product areas and functions across Google and regularly hear from the leaders of the human rights programme.
HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRAMME
The human rights programme advances company-wide strategy on civil and human rights, advises product teams on potential civil and human rights impacts, conducts human rights due diligence, and engages external experts and stakeholders.
Our civil and human rights work is integrated into processes and procedures across the company. A network of employees covering product, regional and functional areas is responsible for the day-to-day work of protecting our users. Employees can also raise concerns about human and civil rights, which are reviewed by the human rights programme and senior management, as relevant.
Due diligence and risk management
We incorporate civil and human rights principles into Google’s long-term strategies and day-to-day decision making. Google has product-specific counsel advising product teams who are part of the development and deployment of new products and features. Product and regional counsel, in coordination with subject-matter and regional experts among Google’s policy staff, assess legal and policy risks. The human rights programme also manages human rights due diligence, including human rights impact assessments, work with internal stakeholders in areas such as data governance, content policies and supply chain.
Engaging with external experts and affected stakeholders is essential to our civil and human rights work. Regular engagement and formal consultation with civil society and other stakeholders informs the development of our products and policies.
These engagements help us identify, prioritise and address existing and potential civil and human rights impacts. They also present important opportunities for Google to get feedback on how and where we should consider improvements to our policies, practices and services.
Transparency is core to our commitment to respect human rights. In 2010, we were the first Internet company to launch a tool to inform people about government requests for user data or content removal. Today, the Google Transparency Report hub includes transparency reports on requests for user information, government requests to remove content, traffic and disruptions, and many other topics that can potentially impact human rights.
Transparency helps our users, the public, regulators and policymakers understand our policies and our products. That’s why we’ve created tools like How Search works, How Play works and How YouTube works to explain how our products work, and share our approach on specific issues, such as disinformation and information quality.
As a founding member of the Global Network Initiative, Google is subject to a periodic assessment by an independent party to review how the company integrates GNI Principles into our governance, due diligence and risk management, and operational practices. The GNI makes these company assessments publicly available.