News / USA

Google Goes Back To Iran

Working with the US government, the computer giant Google has announced it will again begin distributing its products in Iran. Will this make the web safer for Iranian web users?

Google Goes Back To Iran
Google Goes Back To Iran

In the wake of Iran's controversial 2009 presidential elections, millions of Iranians took to the web to trade information, organize, and communicate within their nation and with the rest of the world.  Until, that is, Tehran decided to tighten the Internet's spigot and began a serious campaign to restrict web and mobile usage.

Iran still bans many foreign-based websites, such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.  And US law prohibits the export of most software-based products to Iran.  However this week, following lengthy and complex negotiations, Google announced its products will again be available to Iranian web users.

Scott Rubin
Scott Rubin

Scott Rubin is Google's director of public policy and communications strategy.

"The citizens of Iran will be able to download three Google products: Google Chrome, which is our browser, Picasa, which is our photo-sharing software, and Google Earth, which provides users a 3-D way to scan and world, and users can add their own layers to earth to create their own version about what they want to share with people about the world where they live."

The trade and export sanctions against Iran date back as far as the 1980's, but companies such as Google can apply for narrow trade licenses to the US State Department.  Google still has to abide by the overall sanctions - it can't offer more products than specifically detailed yet - and per US law, these new Google downloads will block all IP addresses associated with the Iranian government.

However, Rubin says these three products could greatly enhance how Iranians share information with each other and the rest of the world online.

"There are millions and millions of people (online in Iran)," says Rubin, "and one of our core missions at Google is to provide access to information around the world.  For all this time, this particular way to share information has not been available to the people of Iran."

The three Google downloads - all free - will allow Iranian users to scan and share photos, to document the physical world around them adding any text or information overlays they wish with Google Earth, and surf the net with Chrome, which Rubin describes as a very secure browswer.

"If you think about what happened after the elections in Iran in 2009 when foreign journalists were expelled or their licenses were revoked to practice journalism," notes Rubin, "the people of Iran used tools like YouTube and Twitter to share what was happening.  This is just one more step to opening up the world, even in countries where information is restricted."

Interestingly, Google's trade license would have permitted the distribution of Google Chat, but company officials had too many concerns that security and privacy of users could too easily be breached by Iranian web snooping.  "It's a balancing act between providing information but doing it in a way that doesn't compromise people's safety," says Rubin.

The Google downloads are all free and available to users in Iran at www.google.com

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

Doug Bernard

dbjohnson+voanews.com

Doug Bernard covers cyber-issues for VOA, focusing on Internet privacy, security and censorship circumvention. Previously he edited VOA’s “Digital Frontiers” blog, produced the “Daily Download” webcast and hosted “Talk to America”, for which he won the International Presenter of the Year award from the Association for International Broadcasting. He began his career at Michigan Public Radio, and has contributed to "The New York Times," the "Christian Science Monitor," SPIN and NPR, among others. You can follow him @dfrontiers.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid