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Google's Privacy Practices Clouded By Lawsuit

Microsoft gains an unfair edge over Gmail under current government email requirements, according to a federal suit filed by Google.

Charles Babcock

November 2, 2010

2 Min Read

Google has succeeded in installing Gmail and Google Apps in some cases, but the case that keeps coming back to mind is the University of California at Davis. The decision to halt a pilot installation of Google Mail there was a combined IT and faculty decision. From conversations with university IT members elsewhere, I know that faculty committees are sensitive to any vendor lacking an adequate concern for individual privacy. If no information is private, then free thinking stands to take a blow, with academic freedom soon to follow.

Google tends to think collecting information and playing the role of disruptive force is enough. But the requirements it's protesting in its lawsuit were drafted by the people it most needs to convince that it's willing to listen to and meet their goals. There's no love of monopolies on campuses or in state and federal governments. I think California and other states, along with the federal government, would welcome an alternative to Microsoft dominating their office systems.

But Google still needs to convince prospective customers that it both understands their needs and can provide the technology to meet them. Suing the federal government is likely to be counterproductive. It would convince prospects that seeking a Google bid may be tantamount to becoming a target of a lawsuit, if the process doesn't go Google's way.

A true disruptor offers irresistible value in the face of an entrenched opposition. It finds a way to reach over the protests of established interests and appeal to the self-interest of target customers.

At UC-Davis, however, the university CIO, Peter Siegel, and Academic Senate IT chair Niels Jensen and Campus Council IT chair Joe Kiskis wrote a joint letter saying the school would end its Gmail projects because faculty members doubted Google's ability to keep its correspondence private. Lawsuits will not convince these users. Google needs a better understanding of its potential customers and its real position in the world as an established player itself.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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