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News Item

LA Council Insists On Added Security Breach Penalty As It Oks Move to Google’s ‘Cloud’

Project Requires Close Monitoring To Guarantee Citizens’ Privacy Consumer Watchdog Says

The Los Angeles City Council voted today to move the city's 30,000 email users to a system provided by Google, but only after a provision that the city be compensated if there is security breach in the data held on Google's servers.

Consumer Watchdog had said that the security provisions for the Google "cloud computing" system for email and other applications remained untested and opposed the $7.25 million contract. However, the nonpartisan, nonpartisan consumer group had argued that if the contact were approved, it should contain a provision requiring "liquidated damages" or a payment in the event of a security breach.  Council voted to add the penalty provision 9-3.

"Los Angeles residents cannot be sure the city's confidential or sensitive data will be secure," said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog, "but at least they know there will be a penalty if security is compromised. It's essential that this project be closely watched to ensure that Google keeps its promises. Google's latest mantra, ‘Trust us, security matters' is not a real guarantee of anything."

Key to the plan for LA's system is Google's "Government Cloud," an Internet-based system that is intended to serve Federal, State and Local governments. While the "Government Cloud" has been announced, it has not be completed.  Google has said it plans to seek Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification for it, but it is unclear if, or when such certification might happen.

"The right way to have done this, is to have insisted that Google demonstrate the Government Cloud and its security and privacy measures before committing to use it," said Simpson. "Would any of the Council members buy a car without test driving it? They've just voted to adopt a system that hasn't even been built."

The $7.25 million contract is actually with Computer Sciences Corp., which will manage the switchover to Google's system.  The Terms of Service agreement with Google is merely an appendix to the main contract, which may make it more difficult to hold Google responsible for any shortcomings in the system, Consumer Watchdog said.

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Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, CA.  Our website is www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.

More Stories By Carmen Gonzalez

Carmen Gonzalez is the co-founder, president, and CEO of SYS-CON Media, Cloud Expo, Inc. and Ulitzer, Inc.

Carmen has been in charge of SYS-CON's sales and marketing functions since 1994. Under her leadership, the company was named by Inc 500, among the fastest growing 500 privately held companies in North America three years in a row.

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