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    Update on Google’s Cloud-Computing Services in Los Angeles

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Google’s cloud computing services face another setback, as the California city “has abandoned plans to move 13,000 law enforcement personnel to the Internet company’s cloud-based messaging system,” though it will still use Gmail for some employees. Cloud computing is where you upload, store and access your data at an online service owned or operated by others. Microsoft, Google, Apple and many others offer these services. (Read a previous post for more on privacy and security questions surrounding cloud computing services.)

    There was much controversy a couple of years ago when Los Angeles decided to move its e-mail system, internal data and public records to Google’s paid cloud computing service Google Apps. In L.A.’s $7.25 million plan (pdf), “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.”

    Los Angeles’s move to Google’s cloud computing service has hit bumps, however. (These are not the first bumps Google has faced in California. Note that a year ago, after a pilot project, the University of California at Davis rejected using Gmail for its faculty and staff, in part because of privacy and security questions.)

    The Los Angeles Times reports:

    The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to scale back the city’s email services contract with Google, agreeing with staff analysis that the company’s technology could not meet the security needs of crucial departments including police and the city attorney’s office. The city will continue using Google’s email system for 17,000 other employees. […]

    But city officials said that Google’s system “does not have the technical ability to comply with the city’s security requirements” and that those requirements are “not currently compatible with cloud computing.”

    Google has long touted its deal with Los Angeles to other cities interested in getting out of the business of maintaining their own email systems, which often involved large rooms of expensive server computers and a trained support staff. Google’s pitch was that cities like Los Angeles could save money and effort by moving their email and documents to Google’s cloud — its large network of data centers where it stores clients’ emails along with many other types of data.

    But according to city officials, Google may have overestimated its ability to satisfy strict federal security rules about sensitive data from law enforcement agencies. […]

    For its part, Google noted that the complicated security rules were not part of the original contract it signed with Los Angeles in 2009 and that the city raised the issue well after the deal had been completed.

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