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L.A. councilman: Google ‘unable to meet’ security needs of city email

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A Los Angeles city councilman is demanding answers about Google Inc.'s $7.2-million contract to provide 30,000 city employees with email — and why after two years nearly half of those employees still haven’t moved to Google’s system.

Google and its contractors have ‘been unable to meet the security requirements of the city and
LAPD for all data and information,’ according to a public motion by Councilman Dennis Zine. Zine has requested that city attorneys provide a status report on the contract, which has run into a long series of obstacles centered on whether Google can legally house sensitive city law enforcement information, such as criminal histories.

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Google has argued that cloud computing, in which data is stored in large corporate data centers rather than on businesses’ local servers, is so new that the legal requirements around data protection are still evolving — and that some of those regulations came to light only after the contract was signed in late 2009.

In April The Times noted the bumpy road that Google has had in its efforts to become a widely used email provider to businesses and governments. The issues have to do with convincing clients that the company can safely and legally store critical data and sensitive communications.

Because the LAPD has been unable to move to Google’s system, the department has stayed on the older Novell email software — and the city has complained that running two email programs simultaneously has created a number of unwieldy productivity problems. Google is paying for the LAPD and related agencies to use the older system.

Updated, 4:00 p.m.: Google responded with the following statement: ‘The City has acknowledged Google Apps is more secure than its current system. Along the way they’ve also introduced new requirements which require work to implement in a cloud computing environment, and we’ve presented a plan to meet them at no additional cost.”

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-- David Sarno


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