Google Launches Online Safety Campaign

Google is working with Citizens Advice Bureau on a publicity campaign to spread awareness about web security

Google, in consultation with the Citizens Advice Bureau, on Monday launched a public awareness campaign intended to spread knowledge about how users can protect themselves online, using techniques such as two-factor authentication and secure passwords.

The campaign, which will run in newspapers, on public transport and online, will encourage users to log out of web browsers when they’ve finished accessing their account and look out for the “https://” and padlock symbols in web browsers to ensure security.


“When you go into a branch of your bank, you recognise the official staff by their name, their uniforms and the services they offer you. Having this level of reassurance shouldn’t be any different for online banking or other sensitive services,” Google said in a statement.

The campaign will also cover issues such as child protection and the use of browser cookies.

The campaign marks the first time the search giant has used advertising to promote something other than a product.

Online safety is a top concern for users, according to Citizens Advice. It cited Ofcom figures that one fifth of users do not know what is being done to protect them online, while two-thirds of users think that more should be done.

Google recently adopted a two-factor authentication system, in which participating users must enter a code sent to their mobile phone in order to access their accounts, and the campaign will promote this and similar systems as an added layer of security.

“Two-step verification adds an extra layer of security to your account by requiring you to have access to your phone – as well as your username and password – when you sign in,” Google stated. “This means that if someone steals or guesses your password, the potential hijacker still can’t sign in to your account because they don’t have your phone.”

‘Jargon buster’

A “jargon buster” section of the campaign’s associated website covers terms such as cookies, IP addresses, malware and encryption.

The campaign appears in part designed to reassure users about the data Google collects about users, noted Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley in a Monday blog post.

Google has suffered from a number of high-profile privacy incidents in recent memory, including a long-running entanglement with various governments over the collection of personal data by Street View cars and a privacy lawsuit over its now-defunct Buzz service.

To its credit, Google also provides technologies designed to help users defend their accounts from being hacked, but few users seem to know about them, according to Cluley.

He said the campaign could be a useful tool, but only if it reaches a wide public.

“If the only people who hear about this advertising campaign are people who are already techie geeks or people who work in information security then it will have failed,” Cluley wrote. “If, however, my Aunty Hilda hears about the campaign – and genuinely learns something about how to protect herself online – then it truly will have succeeded.”