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In October 2009, the city of Los Angeles decided to switch its email software from the GroupWise system to Google’s gmail, a decision supported by a unanimous city council vote.
That decision resulted in the city awarding Google a $7.2 million contract to provide its email services to the city’s 30,000-plus employees. But more than two years later, the city is still juggling two email systems as the Department of Justice has blocked the use of Google by the Los Angeles Police Department, according to city staff. The DOJ has cited privacy and security issues as a cause for the hold-up, specifically whether or not Google can house sensitive data on criminal offenders.
Google has argued that cloud computing, wherein information is stored on a remote server rather than locally, circumvents the current legal requirements of data protection. The Mountain View, California based company has also stated that some of those regulations only came to light after the contract with the city was signed. While this issue is vetted, the LAPD has been operating the former email software, which Google is paying for.
“It’s an issue with lack of ability to maintain security,” said Los Angeles Councilmember Dennis Zine, 3rd district. “We’re paying Google, and they’re using the dollars to pay for the GroupWise system.”
In an effort to solve the issue, Zine has filed a motion requesting the city attorney’s office to provide a status report on the contract.
“It’s my nature to question,” said Zine, a 33-year veteran of the LAPD.
The matter is next up for discussion in a city council closed session.
When the city initially approved the contract, Randi Levin, the city’s chief technology officer, wrote a lengthy memo that appeared on the official Google Enterprise blog. In it, she explained the city’s reasoning, which included improved collaboration, easier remote access, and expanded storage.
“In addition to empowering employees across the city, everyone will benefit from Google’s security controls, which will provide a higher level of security for city data than exists with our current system,” Levin wrote in 2009. Two years later, everyone is yet to benefit.
Representatives for Google were unavailable for comment.
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