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Google taps Chicago engineering team for new government transparency project

As witnessed in Egypt, Libya and other nations throughout the Middle East undergoing revolutionary change, the Internet is a virtual front in the battle between citizens and oppressive governments.

Only weeks before the former Mubarak-led government shut down Egyptian Internet access, Google elected to empower a team of engineers to monitor and expose governments seeking to compromise or disrupt Internet access.

Based in Chicago, the Google Transparency Report provides details anytime governments request the search engine behemoth remove or censor information. The report also tracks instances when states attempt to stifle or block the free flow of information on the web.

“A lot of Internet companies talk a lot about policy,” explains Brian Fitzpatrick, who started Google’s Chicago engineering practice six years ago. “Freedom of expression is big. If people can’t get to our services, we can’t really serve them.”

In 2007, Fitzpatrick, now 40, started the Data Liberation Front at Google. That project made it easier for consumers of Gmail, Google Docs and other company products to retrieve and transfer data whenever they saw fit. When the company decided to evolve the Transparency Report from an informal project that drew discretionary engineering time to a fully staffed unit, Fitzpatrick got the call.

Already managing a team of 100 engineers that work out of Google’s 20 W. Kinzie Chicago office, Fitzpatrick is recruiting “three of four” programmers to focus specifically on the Transparency Report. While Google typically targets “computer science generalists,” Fitzpatrick said programmers interested in major number-crunching projects and who are passionate about free expression should apply.

“This all fits with what we’re doing here,” he said.

DrupalCon arrives in Chicago March 7

Thousands of computer developers, designers and professionals will converge at the Chicago Sheraton Hotel and Towers March 7-10 for the DrupalCon convention. Drupal is an open source content management platform that powers websites ranging from personal blogs to whitehouse.gov.

Over the last decade, more than 7,000 “addon” innovations have been implemented by independent developers into Drupal. The conference will feature a keynote presentation by original inventor Dries Buytaert. More information about DrupalCon can be found at chicago2011.drupalcon.org.

MIT Enterprise Forum to explore open innovation

Neuros Technology CEO Joe Born and crowdSPRING co-founder Ross Kimbarovsky will discuss the concept of open innovation and collaboration among businesses March 15 during a program hosted by the Chicago chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum.

The event, which will take place at the 70 W. Madison offices of law firm Ungaretti & Harris, will also include feedback from early stage investors Michael Gruber and Paul Kawalek. Nancy Sullivan, director of UIC’s Office of Technology Management, will moderate. More information can be found mitefchicago.com.



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