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Google defends Google Apps security

Critics cite security concerns in calling for Los Angeles to reconsider Google Apps plan

July 28, 2009 11:57 AM ET

Computerworld - Google Inc. this week came swinging at critics who have cited privacy and security concerns in calling on the city of Los Angeles to rethink its plan to implement the Google Apps hosted e-mail and office applications.

In an interview yesterday, Matt Glotzbach, director of product management for Google Enterprise, said the angst voiced by consumer groups and others about the Los Angeles project is overstated and based on incomplete information. In fact, he contended that transitioning the applications to Google will strengthen the security of the city's data and better maintain its privacy.

"From what I know of the city's operation, this is a security upgrade," Glotzbach said. "Those who may be unfamiliar with cloud computing see this as a security risk simply because it is new and because it is something different," he said. Glotzbach said he believes that at least some of the concerns raised originated from Google's competitors.

Meanwhile top managers at the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency (ITA), which oversees technology implementations in the city, yesterday said the city is still committed to implementing Google Apps. The agency insisted that provisions are in place for addressing the security and privacy issues raised by critics. A spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the city council will sign off on the project only after it is assured that the privacy and security concerns have been properly addressed.

The controversy centers on a plan by the City of Los Angeles to replace its Novell GroupWise e-mail and Microsoft Office applications with Google Apps. Under the $7.25 million plan, the city will transition about 30,000 users to Google's e-mail and office productivity products by the end of December 2009.

City officials have said that they expect the move will save Los Angeles more than $13 million in software licensing and manpower costs over the next five years. The plan is expected to be approved by city council members as early as next week, and the implementation process is scheduled to begin soon thereafter. If approved, Los Angeles will become the second major city after Washington, D.C., to migrate its applications to Google's cloud infrastructure.

The migration would make Google, which hosts the servers running the applications, responsible for retaining and protecting sensitive health care and litigation data along with criminal and drug investigation records. Since the plan was proposed, critics from various organizations, including the Los Angeles Police Department, the city attorney's office and public interest groups have raised questions about the privacy and security implications of storing sensitive data in the cloud for access via the public Internet. The concerns received a fresh airing following the recent Twitter Inc. security breach caused by an attacker gaining access to a worker's e-mail on the Gmail system hosted by Google.



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