Google gets some California love

Published: July 22nd, 2009

The City of Las Angeles is considering a move to scrap both its current e-mail system and office applications in favour of a Google Apps.

The municipality has been in talks with search giant to move this functionality to the cloud. The contract details have been pegged at about US $7.5 million and would see L.A. staff using Google’s suite of e-mail, word processing and spreadsheet tools.

Obviously, privacy groups are going bonkers at the news. In an open letter to the city’s mayor, Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, expressed concern that the transfer of so many sensitive city documents to Google could threaten the privacy and security rights of L.A. residents and might even violate state and federal laws.

It’s definitely a shocking move and privacy activists are fully justified in being concerned, but anyone following IT for the last several years has seen this coming. The cloud is taking over and instead of fighting this fact, we should be concerned about how we can deal with the new privacy and security implications it brings.

That also means that state and federal laws in the U.S., as well as our laws in Canada, have to be updated to address this.

For instance, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered with this deal. How much liability will Google accept if there is a data breach? What responsibilities are left for L.A. city staff? And how will access to information requests be handled now that Google is involved as a third-party?

Google is actually saying that the level of security in Google Apps is actually a step up compared to what L.A. was using previously. To me, that’s not too much of a stretch and I’m sure that would be true for almost every municipality in North America.

So let’s quit crying about why moving to the cloud is bad and start concentrating on how we can make this work in the public sector.