Google Apps is risky business

Google’s genius at making an inordinate amount of money from its text ad auctions is matched by an uncanny ability to make everything it does sound so inviting, safe, secure…Trusting Google Apps for Your Domain with your domain’s data, however, is most certainly risky business.
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

Google’s genius at making an inordinate amount of money from its text ad auctions is matched by an uncanny ability to make everything it does sound so inviting, safe, secure…

Google wraps new product announcements in revolutionary claims of user empowerment and cost-savings while portraying Google as simply wanting to help.

Google launched “Google Apps for Your Domain” under the banner of “a set of hosted applications for organizations that want to provide high quality communications tools to their users without the hassle of installing and maintaining software or hardware.”

Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager, enterprise, at Google declared:

Organizations of all sizes face a common challenge of helping their users communicate and share information more effectively. A hosted service like Google Apps for Your Domain eliminates many of the expenses and hassles of maintaining a communications infrastructure, which is welcome relief for many small business owners and IT staffers. Organizations can let Google be the experts in delivering high quality email, messaging, and other web-based services while they focus on the needs of their users and their day-to-day business.

Google makes its tempting let us be the experts while you run your business pitch hard to resist. However, organizations will resist if they are concerned about:

Ownership and control of proprietary data,

Data integrity and security,

Privacy of employee communications,

Control over content hosted,

Quality of Service guarantees,

Tech support…

In “Google’s not so fine print: Google Apps TOS put Google first” I put forth excerpts of the Google Apps Terms of Service and point out questions organizations should be considering before any implementation:

Where is a guaranteed QoS?
What type of ad content will be served?
Can users decline certain advertisers?
What will Google do with users' information collected and stored?
Will Google delete users' information from its servers at users' requests?
Why no revenue sharing?
Why must users ask for Google approval to place their own content?
Why can Google unilaterally decide to host user chosen content, or not?
Why is Google monitoring the way users use Google Apps?
Why can Google unilaterally decide to stop service at any time?
Why can't every user of Google Apps contact Google for technical support?
Why can't users' administrators directly contact Google at any time for support?
Why is there no guaranteed service problem resolution?
Why can Google stop providing Google Apps at any time?
What happens to users' information in Google's possession when Google stops providing the services?

Google Apps for Your Domain currently includes four Google services, as presented by Google:

Gmail was built on the idea that users should never be forced to delete mail because of a storage quota..

Google Talk enables your users to exchange instant text messages with their contacts and have voice conversations over the web…

Google Calendar helps your users easily organize all of their event-related information, including personal schedules, friends' and co-workers' agendas and public calendars…

Google Page Creator Google Page Creator lets you choose from a host of templates and customize your pages with your organization's content and images…

In “Free Google GMail: the high price you pay” I put forth excerpts of the Google GMail privacy policy and the Google umbrella privacy policy and ask:

Do you believe the contents of every personal and business email you ever write or send should be recorded and permanently archived on third party servers located in countries throughout the world, to which you have no access?

If you are one of the millions of GMail users, you have indicated to Google that you most certainly do.

Below are excerpts of the privacy policies of Google Calendar, Google Talk and Google’s umbrella privacy policy.

Google Calendar Privacy Notice

• Calendars and events. You can create multiple calendars, each of which contain events. The events on each calendar and all content associated with an event — including but not limited to information such as comments, guest responses, and descriptions — are stored and maintained on Google servers.

• Invitations and event notices. In order to manage your invitations, when you invite other people to Calendar events, we collect and maintain information associated with those invitations, including email addresses, dates and times of the events, and any responses from guests.

• You can modify and delete events that you have created on your Calendars. Events to which you have invited other people may continue to exist on their calendars event after they have been deleted from your own.

Because of the way we maintain this service such deletion may not be immediate, and residual copies of your calendar information may remain on backup media.

Google Talk Privacy Notice

When you use Google Talk, we may record information about your usage, such as when you use Google Talk, the size of your contact list and the contacts you communicate with, and the frequency and size of data transfers. Information displayed or clicked on in the Google Talk interface (including UI elements, settings, and other information) is also recorded…

You can uninstall the Google Talk software at any time through the "Add or Remove Programs" Control Panel. When you uninstall the software, Google Talk and its copies of all items are deleted from your computer. Your other files and applications remain unaffected. You may delete your contacts information or chat histories you have stored in your Gmail account by deleting them through Gmail or by deleting your Gmail account from the Google Accounts page. Because of the way we maintain this service, such deletion may not be immediate, and residual copies may remain on backup media.

Google Privacy Policy

Accessing and updating personal information

When you use Google services, we make good faith efforts to provide you with access to your personal information and either to correct this data if it is inaccurate or to delete such data at your request if it is not otherwise required to be retained by law or for legitimate business purposes. We ask individual users to identify themselves and the information requested to be accessed, corrected or removed before processing such requests, and we may decline to process requests that are unreasonably repetitive or systematic, require disproportionate technical effort, jeopardize the privacy of others, or would be extremely impractical (for instance, requests concerning information residing on backup tapes), or for which access is not otherwise required. In any case where we provide information access and correction, we perform this service free of charge, except if doing so would require a disproportionate effort. Some of our services have different procedures to access, correct or delete users' personal information. We provide the details for these procedures in the specific privacy notices or FAQs for these services.

Trusting Google Apps for Your Domain with your domain’s data is most certainly risky business.

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