Patriot Act preventing Google Apps adoption in schools

Patriot Act preventing Google Apps adoption in schools

Summary: Canada's Globe and Mail is reporting on one university that is experiencing a serious backlash for rolling out Google Apps. LakeHead University used Google's free online email and collaboration tools to replace an aging infrastructure, and has successfully saved the school hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Canada's Globe and Mail is reporting on one university that is experiencing a serious backlash for rolling out Google Apps. LakeHead University used Google's free online email and collaboration tools to replace an aging infrastructure, and has successfully saved the school hundreds of thousands of dollars. The backlash is not from the system itself, which has proven effective and user-friendly, but because the US Patriot Act give the US government the right to access virtually any data, at any time, hosted by US companies (Google included).


Professors say the Google deal broke terms of their collective agreement that guarantees members the right to private communications. [Tom Puk, past president of Lakehead's faculty association,] says teachers want an in-house system that doesn't let third parties see their e-mails.

More to the point,

For instance, a Lakehead researcher with a Middle Eastern name, researching anthrax or nuclear energy, might find himself denied entry to the United States without ever knowing why. "You would have no idea what they are up to with your information until, perhaps, it is too late," Mr. Puk said. "We don't want to be subject to laws of the Patriot Act."

Unfortunately, this is preventing more widespread adoption of these genuinely useful, money-saving tools:

Some other organizations are banning Google's innovative tools outright to avoid the prospect of U.S. spooks combing through their data. Security experts say many firms are only just starting to realize the risks they assume by embracing Web-based collaborative tools hosted by a U.S. company, a problem even more acute in Canada where federal privacy rules are at odds with U.S. security measures.

Topics: Government US, Apps, CXO, Google, Government

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Open Records Act

    Aren't all U.S. public schools under the Open Records Act anyways? I.e., isn't "private communcations" for private and non-U.S. schools only at best?
    • Yes, but

      There are a lot of private and non-US schools who could benefit directly and substantially from this sort of cloud computing. The Patriot Act also adds more sweeping abilities and wipes out gray areas created when schools work with private companies (e.g., Google).

      Unfortunately, barriers to adoption, whether real or perceived, are still barriers to adoption.

    • Yes.. but...

      Additional laws like FERPA and HIPPA can restrict what "open" means... as can other issues of confidentiality related to classroom performance, student-teacher-school interaction. For instance, you don't have the legal right under any open records act to request the transcripts of an individual student -- unless you're their parent or guardian, or the student, or a legal representative of such, or have a court order for it...

      There's also the interpretation that "open" does not mean "24x7 self-access available". Often, regulations of various kinds come into play that will mitigate what information can legally be released under "open records" laws. Thus, the whole mess of having to make a formal "open records" request of most institutions which is weighed against compliance issues (for which failure to abide by would result in federal and/or state fines, and/or lawsuits).
  • ...

    The (un)patriot act is only part of the shift from a Democratic Republic to a Fascist regime. I have been against it from day one. Right along with the homeland security act, another fascist method meant to instill fear and subvert the freedom of American citizens.

    This blog is only the tip of the problems these things present. ]:)
    Linux User 147560
  • RE: Patriot Act preventing Google Apps adoption in schools

    This is so typical of Internet users: they want the benefits but not the price. So let the Canadians establish their own version of Google apps: after all, shouldn't they get something for the 95% of their income they turn over to the government?
    • Ahhh they guy .... (who wants)

      who wants to be tracked 24/7

      have you ever thought about moving to china...

      you might like it there.
    • Oh Puhleeze

      Lets not make this into a my country i better than your country thing. If we go down that road, we will have to start talking about the state of health care in the US as a start. I do quite well in Canada, thank you, and I don't pay anywhere near 95% of my money to the government. And I consider the taxes I do pay money well spent.

      If we are going to talk about this blog, why not focus on the real issue of privacy, and leave the jingoism at home.
  • A bit paranoid

    Considering that the Government has
    always had access to virtually everything
    via obtaining a search warrant - dating
    all the way back to 1789. That's quite a
    bit before the Patriot Act.

    Of course, for intelligence, warrants can
    also be issued by the Foreign
    Intelligence Surveillance Court, dating
    back to 1978, created by a Democrat
    controlled Congress and signed by
    Carter - also a long time before the
    Patriot Act.
    • But search warrants are so outdated and cumbersome

      <sarcasm>And requirements for them only make it that much harder to catch criminals and terrorists. Much efficient to simply give the police carte blanche. They are absolutely trustworthy, after all.</sarcasm>
      John L. Ries
    • its not the warrant that we dont agree with

      its going in, and no-one ever knowing you were there.

      now thats a violation of the fourth amendment.

      the patriot act (some parts of it) are clear unconstitutional.

      your free speed can also be jeopardized by such tactics...

      what part of "Congress shall make no law"... do you no understand.
  • Could use instead

    If you don't/can't trust the ability of an external entity to secure your documents, the best approach is to eliminate the problem by keeping custody yourself.
    John L. Ries
    • Very true...

      Or a Google Apps appliance...

      Unfortunately, just can't match Google Apps for collaboration and large organizations shouldn't need to host an exchange server to work together effectively.

    • Or, Google needs to sell Google Docs appliances for corporations and

      universities. A special version that does NOT sync with the cloud.
      • The problem with that is...

        The problem with that is that Google has stated numerous times that it wants to be THE premier data store in the world. If Google were to sell Google Docs appliances where they don't get to touch the data (and keep a copy of it), then it doesn't jive with their ultimate mission, which is to collect and keep data for everything on everyone in every place.
    • anyone who trust the cloud computing for

      secret, and sensitive docs are foolish.

      sneak and peek = unlimited power (you never knew they were there, or if it was a legal search, if you think this power is being used for terrorism, think again. its being used for nearly all crimes, and that is a fact)

      and the ability to know your companies engineering secrets, trade secrets, and future financial decisions which could make some one alot of illegal money if they could get their hands on it.

      / pardon me for being a little Jeffersonian
      • re: correction

        ... used for "only" terr....
  • RE: Patriot Act preventing Google Apps adoption in schools

    Since the adoption of the Constitution, the government has been able to inspect almost anything *with a warrant*. Under the FISA, the government was able to inspect some things secretly, *with a warrant*.

    The Patriot Act is radically different -- it allows broad snooping *without a warrant*, and the government admits it has been abusing that power by demanding records it has no right to under the Act.

    Further, under the Patriot Act, it is *illegal* to admit the existence of a surveillance request. If the FBI comes to Google with a warrant and Google thinks it's over-broad, they can fight the warrant in court. If the FBI comes to Google with an exigent demand under the Patriot Act, Google isn't allowed to tell *anyone* about the demand -- not the courts, not outside counsel, not their Congressional representatives, and certainly not some Canadian professor whose research has attracted Federal scrutiny.

    The Constitution may not have been perfect, but it's better than what we have now.
    • I agree 100%

      Under the "old way" there waws a paper trail. Under the "old way" people were able to find out who is snooping on them.
      I liken the patriot act to an invasion of privacy. And I believe it is unconstitutional.
      With a warrant, you may have no choice but to give up what ever they are looking for, but at least you are made aware that they are looking for something, and exactly WHAT they are looking for.
      The patriot act is secretive, they aren't required to tell what they are looking for, or why they are looking for it. They have freedom to search for what ever they want, and use what ever they can find.
      Don't worry, sooner or later most computer users will probably be standing in front of a panel answering, "Are you now, or have you ever been..."
  • RE: Patriot Act preventing Google Apps adoption in schools

    A public records request is itself a public record -- public employees know when their records are being requested and can find out what is being released. That's a bit different from secret warrantless government surveillance, don't you think?
  • If Google established a Canadian subsidiary, that subsidiary would ONLY be

    If Google established a Canadian subsidiary, that subsidiary would ONLY be

    subject to Canadian law.

    But, very interesting that there is no backlash on the features and

    Of course, it will get trickier for Google to make sure that data from
    Canadian Universities never gets to servers in the US where it WOULD
    be subject to US laws.

    But, this is NOT unique to cloud computing. These issues are the
    general problem of companies from one country operating in another. A
    US Hotel chain in Mexico got into a lot of trouble for what they did
    to a Cuban staying in the hotel, at the request of the US Government.
    They were fined and had their license revoked because what they did
    was contrary to Mexican law.

    But, the weired legal problems like this (created by our stupid
    government), will cost companies like Google extra money to create
    local subsidiaries and keep the data for Canadian companies and
    Canadian government agencies in Canada.