Google, U.S. at odds over email system certification

Google Inc. has said the email system it's selling to governments meets a crucial federal security standard. The Justice Department is not so sure.

Google has maintained that Google Apps for Government, the company's government-focused email and office software product, is certified under a 2002 law designed to safeguard digital information used by federal agencies.

But the Justice Department said in documents unsealed last week that Google might not have been granted the certification. The documents were part of a lawsuit Google filed in October against the Department of the Interior after rival Microsoft Corp. won the bid to provide email software to the agency.

Building an extra-secure government version of its popular Google Apps software has been key to Google's efforts to catch up to Microsoft in the lucrative market to provide email systems to government agencies. Google has repeatedly said its government offering has been certified under the Federal Information Security Management Act, known as FISMA.

In its brief, Justice lawyers wrote that "notwithstanding Google's representations … it appears that Google's Google Apps for Government does not have FISMA certification."

For its part, Google said that the consumer and business version of Google Apps received a federal accreditation last July.

"Google Apps for Government is the same system with enhanced security controls that go beyond FISMA requirements," David Mihalchik, who oversees Google's government software initiatives, said in a statement.

In January, a judge granted Google a preliminary injunction in its case against the Interior Department, in which the company alleged a pro-Microsoft bias in the agency's process to procure a new email system for its 88,000 employees.

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