Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) introduced its broadest play for Web security yet, launching its "Good to Know" advertising campaign to help educate consumers about how to protect themselves while surfing the Web.
Unveiled in the U.S. Jan. 17, the multimillion-dollar Good to Know initiative includes privacy and security tips, such as how to use two-step verification, how to lock a computer when it's in public but not in use, and how to make sure Website connections are secure via HTTPS encryption.
Google is also running ads in newspapers and magazines, online and in New York and Washington, D.C., subway stations.
The move comes a week after Google launched its Search Plus Your World effort to personalize users' search results. The Electronic Privacy Information Center said Google was threatening user privacy with the feature, but the social search is more likely to infringe on antitrust rules by excluding results from Facebook and Twitter.
Good to Know, aimed at the casual Web user who perhaps isn't as safe online as he or she should be, explains how cookies and IP addresses, which Google and other Web service providers such as Facebook use to identify users' computers, actually work.
Alma Whitten, the director of privacy, product and engineering behind the campaign, explained at whom Good to Know is targeted in a corporate blog post that could be observed as equally light-hearted and humorous or condescending to seemingly ignorant Internet users:
"Does this person sound familiar? He can't be bothered to type a password into his phone every time he wants to play a game of Angry Birds. When he does need a password, maybe for his email or bank Website, he chooses one that's easy to remember like his sister's name-and he uses the same one for each Website he visits. For him, cookies come from the bakery, IP addresses are the locations of Intellectual Property and a correct Google search result is basically magic."
The blog post also features a brief Picasa slide show of online safety tips, and the Good to Know Website explores even more safeguards.
This isn't Google's first time around the block trying to educate consumers about Web security, with some solid good reasons.
The company triggered a glaring privacy gaffe related to its failed Google Buzz social service, which two years ago exposed users' Gmail contacts without users' permission.
Google followed that bad act with a worse one when it said in May 2010 its Street View cars had collected 600GB of users' browsing information from unprotected WiFi networks.
Since then, the company has done a laudable job shoring up its own security policies and infrastructure for users. After the Street View leak, Google tapped Whitten as its privacy leader and in February introduced two-step verification, which lets users log in with a password and a temporary short code.
Google also added HTTPS encryption to its Google+, Gmail and Google.com search engine for all users. More than two years ago, Google launched its Dashboard to provide each user with their own private view of how much data they generate and consume via Google Web services.
That tool now includes a Me on the Web identity management tool to help users track what others are saying about them online. Google also offers security tools for its Chrome Web browser.