LAPD Refuses To Go On the Cloud
Google Mail may be the most popular email service in the world, but it evidently fails to meet strict security guidelines as laid out by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). On 14 December 2011, the Los Angeles City Council voted to scale back the city’s email services contract with Google partner Computer Science Corp. (CSC) from 30,000 to 17,000 employees citing Google Apps’ inability to meet certain FBI security requirements. Consequently, the city’s 13,000 law enforcement employees will continue to use the existing Novell GroupWise applications.
To add salt to its wounds, as per the amended contract Google will have to pay up to $350,000 per year for the LAPD to maintain its GroupWise licenses for the entire term of the CSC contract and any extensions beyond that. Google will also substantially reduce the amount it charges for the rest of the city’s use of Google Apps. Also, CSC too will reduce its initial integration fee for the $7.2 million project by $250,000.
The contract amendment was pushed by the city council on the recommendations of chief legislative analyst Gerry Miller and chief administrative officer Miguel Santana. “Although CSC does not have the technical ability to comply with the City’s security requirements, it should be noted that the DOJ (Department of Justice) requirements are not currently compatible with cloud computing,” they had written in a memo to council members. Google can take solace from the fact that the memo seems more like an indictment of cloud computing in general than Google Apps in particular.
However, there are certain things that Google should worry about. One is that this Los Angeles contract was supposed to open up new opportunities for Google, and has been touted as a major cost-saving measure to other cities. With this development, those opportunities may become limited. Also, Google may have to come up with a plausible defense to allegations that it had overestimated its ability to satisfy FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) requirements.
“There was definitely a time when Google seemed positive they were going to meet the requirements,” said Maggie Goodrich, the Los Angeles Police Department’s chief information officer (CIO). However, considering that she admitted that “will be difficult for law enforcement to move to a cloud solution until the [security requirements] and cloud are more in line with each other,” what Google said in its defense does make sense.
“We’re disappointed that the city introduced requirements for the LAPD after the contract was signed that are, in its own words, ‘currently incompatible with cloud computing,’” Google spokesman Andrew Kovacs said in a statement. At the same time, he didn’t forget to mention that with 17,000 City employees having moved to the Google cloud, Los Angeles would be saving $2 million dollars every year.
Whether Google knew about these requirements when bidding for the contract or they were introduced later is still open to debate. As is the inability of cloud computing to meet strict security requirements considering the vote of support it had got from credible authorities (See: US Cyber Command Chief Gives Cloud Computing Security His Vote of Confidence).
By Sourya Biswas