Google deal with L.A. sours


Google’s (s GOOG)  fairy tale deal to supply the city of Los Angeles and its police department with Google Apps and email is turning into more a black eye than a PR coup.

Today, a letter from Los Angeles CTO Randi Levin to Google prime contractor CSC surfaced that shows that the two-year-old deal is more troubled than previously thought.

Dated August 17, 2011, but not public until now,  Levin’s letter stated that since Google/CSC were still unable to fulfill their obligations to provide a secure email and collaboration system, the city will not pay for the police department implementation–which never happened., an advocacy group that has been critical of the LA-Google contract, posted the letter.

The amended  contract requires Google to pay for the police and related agencies to stay on Novell GroupWise till November 2012. Google was already footing the Groupwise bill through June 20, 2011. The cost to Google could be several million dollars. But the blow to Google’s reputation as a provider of safe and secure email and collaboration could be far higher.

LA would still pay for the originally contracted 30,000 seats of Google Apps Premier edition.

Levin’s letter references a May 13 letter to him from CSC stating “CSC indicated it is unable to meet the security requirements of the City and Los Angeles Police Department for all data and information pursuant to the U.S. Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJISS) policy requirements,,” as the reason to amend the contract.

“It’s been two years and Google has still not met the security requirements and the city knows this and yet Google goes aorund the country and world suggesting that its’s experience is one of its greatest success stories,” said John Simpson, director of’s privacy project.

The LA- Google deal was used by Google to show that cloud computing in general and Google Apps in particular was ready for primetime use even in security conscious environments. Google beat out Microsoft (s MSFT) for the contract.  And it galled some LA area onlookers that Google continued to tout this as a huge success despite the problems it encountered.

Google and the Los Angeles office of the CTO did not return emails and phone calls for comment.

Update:  On Tuesday afternoon, a Google spokesman responded:

“This is just the latest in a long list of press stunts from a group that admits to working closely with our competitors.  We are meeting our commitments to the City of Los Angeles.  Indeed, the City recently renewed their Google Apps contract for 17,000 employees, and the project is expected to save Los Angeles taxpayers millions of dollars.

The City has acknowledged Google Apps is more secure than its current system.  Along the way they’ve also introduced new requirements which require work to implement in a cloud computing environment, and we’ve presented a plan to meet them at no additional cost.”

Attribution Photo courtesy of Flickr user LifeSupercharger



Google offering upgrades at no charge?! Read between the lines. Technology creep on the part of the city? I think not. Sounds more like Google completely bit off more than they could chew, and are doing what they can (offering incentives and upgrades at no charge) to mitigate the problem so as not loose the contract entirely. Even the military and federal government are avoiding cloud computing like the plague because it is inherently slower, and much less secure that a stand-alone system. Why would the city ever even consider such a problematic solution? The chances of a hacker at some point gaining access to personal and confidential information from a cloud based system are better than not. That is why the standards are so high, and why Google hasn’t been able to fulfill their basic contract even after two years of further development.

Jeff Gould

This story is interesting, but there is a slight factual mistake. It says taht LA “would still pay for the originally contracted 30,000 seats of Google Apps Premier edition”. This is wrong. LA will only pay for the seats actually deployed. But in the original contract the seats were priced on a sliding scale – the price per seat for 30K seats was lower than for 15K seats. So the city is just demanding to get the lowest possible unit price even though they didn’t deploy the maximum number of seats.

Barb Darrow

jeff thanks for this. I’m checking it out. Sounds right. There was another discussion about this at the LA city council meeting this week that was apparently was deferred till next week. Will try to find out what’s what.

Chris Kahl

Lots of state and local goverments use Groupwise ’cause it cheap

Mark Gibbs

Google is a seach company that grew to big and knows nothing about security and protecting peoples data, they are the ones that steal it .. they just see dollar signs with microsoft office and try to steal their customers ..
this is Crazy that anyone would move a company to Google docs or Android.

Dean Collins

whats so different between”googles regular security” and “U.S. Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJISS) policy requirements”?

Should the same standard be provided to all of Googles customers…?

Marco Rodriguez

Huge difference. There is classified confidential information about victims and investigations shared in those emails.

Glenn Batuyong

What the heck did Los Angeles “want” exactly? Sounds notoriously like “scope creep” which destroys technology projects… Obviously LA wanted something super complex, bizarre or unmanageable which didn’t affect other Google migrations like the City of Mesquite, Rockingham County, the GSA, the State of Wyoming, Washington County, the City of Des Moines… sometimes technology can’t fix a process if its essentially broken to begin with…

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