Google opens its first Safety Engineering Centre amid ongoing tech security debate

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Google boss Sundar Pichai has said keeping people safe online is a priority for the tech giant as it opened a safety engineering centre in Germany.

The company has launched its first Google Safety Engineering Centre (GSEC) in Munich, which will work on new tools to improve privacy and security across the firm’s internet services.

In a video message at the centre’s opening, Mr Pichai said: “Last week at I/O, our annual developer conference in California, I shared how we’re working to build a more helpful Google for everyone.

“Keeping people safe online, and their information private and secure, is a big part of how we do this.

“We believe that privacy and safety must be equally available to everyone in the world, and we bring that to life with products that empower everyone with clear and meaningful choices around their data.”

The centre has been launched alongside a new 10 million euro (£8.7 million) grant for safety organisations in Europe working on ways to keep people safe online.

“Building privacy and security into the core of our products doesn’t just mean keeping people safe while using Google’s products — it also means keeping people safe when they browse the web,” Mr Pichai said.

The launch comes amid on-going criticism of technology companies and their approach to keeping internet users safe.

On Monday, a lawyer representing three victims of online sexual abuse told an inquiry that internet firms including Google were failing to tackle the issue of online abuse.

William Chapman told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) that technology giants remain “immune from liability no matter how reckless or indifferent” they are to the risks posed by paedophiles.

In April, a Government White Paper on online harms proposed the introduction of a mandatory duty of care for technology and social media companies, which must pledge to protect their users or face punishment from a new independent regulator.

Google’s vice president of trust and safety, Kristie Canegallo, said the new grant scheme would be open to a range of groups that did not just operate online.

“These organisations might be focused on tackling hate and extremism in their communities, or helping young people stay safe online,” she said.

“They’re working on topics that don’t necessarily start when you open a laptop or end when you close one, but where technology can still play a role.”

Chris Price
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