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Google Backs New Effort To Simplify Security

New organization Simply Secure aims to promote and shape more user-friendly security and privacy technologies on the Internet.

Google today announced its support for a newly formed organization called Simply Secure that hopes to eliminate the nagging security and privacy tradeoff of complexity that plague Internet users.

While there are plenty of tools available today for securing users' content, communications, and online activity, they are often too hard for users to use or implement correctly, Google's Meredith Whittacker, open research lead, and Ben Laurie, senior staff engineer, wrote in a blog post today:

They introduce extra steps or are simply confusing and cumbersome. (“Is this a software bug, or am I doing something wrong?”) However elegant and intelligent the underlying technology (and much of it is truly miraculous), the results are in: if people can’t use it easily, many of them won’t. We believe that people shouldn’t have to make a trade-off between security and ease of use. This is why we’re happy to support Simply Secure, a new organization dedicated to improving the usability and safety of open-source tools that help people secure their online lives.

Simply Secure plans to work with open-source teams, designers, and researchers to determine how to make these security tools easy to use. Among the efforts they say they plan to collaborate with are Open Whisper Systems, The Guardian Project, and Off-the-Record Messaging, "to make them easier to understand and use," the Google team says.

"We feel that plenty of tools are being built already, we just want to help make them better," Ben Laurie, Google senior staff engineer, said in an email exchange.

Laurie says the organization will look at how to best integrate design and user testing in open source software development and provide information on how to do just that.

"We have not absolutely nailed down the first projects, but it is likely they will be in the messaging area, particularly IM since the real-time and one-to-one nature of that environment makes it more tractable for early experiments," Laurie says.