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Google Apps Contract In LA Hits Security Headwind

The City of Los Angeles faces worries about privacy and security as it considers moving to Google Apps.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was asked on Friday to weigh potential privacy and security risks before allowing the City of Los Angeles to ditch Microsoft and Novell for Google.

In a letter to the Mayor, Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, urges "a thorough analysis and risk assessment of all privacy and other confidentiality impacts that may occur" if the City of Los Angeles goes through with its proposal to replace its e-mail system and office applications with Google Apps.

"Our concern is that the transfer of so many City records to a cloud computing provider may threaten the privacy rights of City residents, undermine the security of other sensitive information, violate both state and federal laws, and potentially damage vital City legal and other interests," Dixon wrote.

Dixon's letter follows a week of handwringing about Web security after a hacker who broke into Twitter in May began distributing the company's internal documents to media sites and bloggers.

The $7,250,000 contract under consideration in Los Angeles is expected to cost $8,312,410 over five years and to save the city $6,253,373 in Microsoft Office and Novell GroupWise license fees over that same period. The City expects to realize an additional $7,528,324 in "soft savings," through shifting IT personal devoted to GroupWise to other purposes. It's also considering reducing its software license expenses through layoffs.

About $1,507,209 of the potential funding for the Google transition is expected to come from Los Angeles' portion of a $70 million class action antitrust settlement with Microsoft that occurred in June, 2006.

A report on the proposed contract from the Office of the City administrative Officer states that Microsoft Office is generally considered to have a larger feature set that Google Apps and that because some City employees rely on those features, about 20% of the City's computer users are expected to continue using Microsoft Office indefinitely.

The report assumes that about 30,000 workers will transition to Google Apps. The Los Angeles Police Department, however, is still evaluating the security and privacy implications of the proposed change. If the LAPD chooses not to make the change, only 17,000 City employees are expected to shift to Google Apps.

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