UC Davis hasn't "Gone Google"; why not?

Are organizations rejecting the Google Apps cloud service because of security and privacy concerns? Or are journalists and bloggers just looking for something to write about? You be the judge (but, yeah, I get to have opinions too). Google, email, security, and Europe: sounds like perfect fodder for The Long View...

Yesterday, Paul McDougall breathlessly claimed this "exclusive": Gmail Ditched By Major University

University of California-Davis ... decided to end its Gmail pilot, which could have led to campus-wide deployment, because faculty members doubted Google's ability to keep their correspondences private. ... [It] also cited a recent letter ... from the privacy commissioners of ten countries ... that chastised Google for its recent addition of Google Buzz to Gmail.

(For more about this castigatory letter, see Google blasted over privacy peeves of 10-nation cabal.)

Ohhh, scary-bad news for Google there. Crikey, sell all your (GOOG) stock, 'cos it didn't win a deal at the pilot stage. /s

Look, I know all about big organizations piloting email systems: I worked on HP OpenMail and its Samsung Contact offspring for 15 years. Incredible as it may seem, the best product doesn't always win the deal. Unbelievable, I know.

Many IT shops aren't above adding a low-bidding product to a competitive pilot, even though they have no intention of choosing it. Often, they just do it so they can negotiate down the cost of a 'preferred' provider; such as -- oh-I-don't-know -- Microsoft, let's say. 

Not that I'd suggest for one moment this was the case at UCD; the school says it hasn't yet found a suitable product. But what on Earth is the relevance of Buzz to a decision about Google Apps? Conflating Gmail with Apps just seems like sloppy thinking: separate infrastructures, different ToS, different privacy policies.

Interestingly, there's another part of the UCD reasoning: it questions whether any cloud- or SaaS-based email system would satisfy school policy. Sadly, Paul McDougall buried that angle in paragraph ten:

UC Davis ... additionally stated that "outsourcing e-mail may not be in compliance with the [UC] Electronic Communications Policy." ... [It] forbids the university from disclosing or examining the contents of e-mails ... and from distributing e-mails to third parties. ... The mere emergence of significant disagreement on these points undermines confidence in whether adopting Google's Gmail service would be consistent with the policy," the letter states.

Hmmm. Is it possible that the UCD folks feel embarrassed that they wasted time and money on piloting something they're not allowed to buy? Did they then seek another reason to headline their decision not to go forward? I can't help thinking that this reasoning might actually be more significant than a dubious, unfocused post-justification about privacy and security safeguards.

An understandable privacy concern or administrators covering themselves? I suspect the latter, but what do you think?  

Richi Jennings, blogger at large

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: TLV@richij.com. You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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