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City's Switch to Google Has Been An Utter Failure For LAPD, Documents Show

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The city's much-ballyhooed switch to Google for official city business two years ago — for e-mail, documents and other Google apps — has been an utter failure for the Los Angeles Police Department, according to documents obtained by the consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.

The LAPD has not been able to use Google like other city departments, because it has a higher bar for security that Google has not been able to surpass. Instead, the LAPD and anyone in the city working on law enforcement issues has had to use a separate system called GroupWise e-mail.

Consumer Watchdog posted a letter on its website that appears to be from Randi Levin, the City's Chief Technology Officer, to Computer Science Contracts. Levin writes that Google "is unable to meet the security requirements of the City and the Los Angeles Police Department for all data and information, pursuant to U.S. DOJ Criminal Justice Information Systems policy requirements."

The original $7.25 million contract was supposed to include an e-mail system that all city employees could use. The contract, according to Consumer Watchdog, called for 30,000 city employees to move to the Google Apps for Government system but it said that only 17,000 city employees are using it. In the letter, Levin asks for a refund and also reimbursement for the GroupWise e-mail system that the city has been forced to use.

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At the time that the city switched to a Google managed by CSC, Levin said that the city was looking forward to life in the cloud. It was supposed to be cheaper, faster, have more storage space and more compatibility for city employees in the field. It was supposed to better withstand earthquakes or local disasters and it was also supposed to be more secure. It looks like that last part in particular hasn't worked out.

Consumer Watchdog wants the city to speak publicly and explain what sort of security issues stopped LAPD from using the Google system. Here is the group's statement:

If Google is unable to satisfy the security needs of the LAPD two years after it promised to do so, the company is likely not able to meet the needs of the federal government or other governmental agencies regarding security. These agencies deserve to know the details, given Google's practice of holding Los Angeles out as a model for other governmental cloud computing contracts.

Here's the video from two years ago, where Levin talks about what she hopes the switch will do for city employees: