Google deal with L.A. sours

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Google’s  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. Consumerwatchdog.org, 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 Consumerwatchdog.org’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 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

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