Does Google’s California Privacy Case Impact Public Sector and Business Users?

September 25, 2013

By Doug Miller

Many of us have been following a legal case being fought in California in which 10 plaintiffs are suing Google over its practice of scanning the content of private Gmail messages for the purposes of showing ads related to the content of the user’s email.

The plaintiffs and many privacy organizations claim Google “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages” and this violates California’s privacy laws and federal wiretapping statutes. Google states that it has always done this and “all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing.” Google also states that the revenue gained by delivering context-sensitive ads to Gmail users enables it to offer a free service. In fact, Google was just awarded a patent related to scanning the content of emails, ranking the content and matching ads to the content. Read the rest of this entry »


FTC and Google – no market, no foul

January 4, 2013

By Doug Miller

In reading the coverage of the FTC announcement that it was not going to pursue any real action against Google for favoritism of its own products in the web search market, I was surprised to see how few commentators have raised the point that there can’t be a search “market” when no one pays for that service. And that the users of web search are, in fact, the product that Google sells to the consumers of the market it does monopolize – online advertising. Or the fact that by using its advertising revenues to provide services to users for free or greatly discounted it can collapse those markets and own them as well.
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Google – Let Us Opt Out of Your Data Mining Machine

October 16, 2012

By Doug Miller

The French data protection agency (aka the CNIL), acting on behalf of a large group of European data protection agencies, today announced that it was taking action to push Google to make a number of changes to its privacy policy that came into effect earlier this year.

One of the big issues for the CNIL is the lack of control for the user over the amount of data that is collected when you use a Google cloud service or how that data can be used. There is no opt-out for users if they don’t want their browsing habits and internet content mined for the purpose of enhancing Google’s search or displaying more relevant Google ads.
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Google+ for Business: Read the Terms

October 1, 2012

By Doug Miller

On August 29, Google announced a preview of its Google+ social networking offering as a premium product for business. Google+ for Business will be made available to contracted Google Apps customers (including Google Apps for Business, Government and Education). This is exciting news for Google Apps customers who want to take advantage of Google+ in their workplace but want more control over how the service is used. Some of the key features include:

  • Private company sharing
  • Private online video meetings
  • Ability to restrict user’s posts
  • Ability for administrators to control default company settings

However there is one thing company owners need to be aware of that may not be obvious with this new offering. This service is not part of the Google Apps suite – at least not yet.
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Office 365 web access still broken

August 18, 2012

By Jeff Gould

I’ve blogged several times about my frustrations using Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access (OWA) as an interface to Office 365 (see my friend and co-blogger Doug Miller’s defense of Office 365 here). I subject myself to the discipline of using OWA instead of the vastly superior Outlook thick client – which I used for years as a front-end to Gmail – because I want to experience at first hand the reality of an all-cloud approach to email.

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The Bank of Google

May 31, 2012

By Doug Miller

This week I read about Google’s new achievement of ISO 27001 compliance for its Google Apps offering. One of the more interesting news pieces was a story in Wired where Eran Feigenbaun (aka Eran Raven) Google’s Director of Security for Google Apps was interviewed and compared Google Apps to a bank “in the days when a bank was a new idea”. His actual quote was:

“It’s very similar to the situation banks were in hundreds of years ago. They had to convince us to give them our money, to take the money out from under the mattress and put it in the bank.”

The more I think about it, the more I agree with Mr. Feigenbaun. Google is like a bank for our data. But before I dive more into the banking analogy, I think it is worth noting that it makes total sense for Google to do everything it possibly can to secure its infrastructure by conforming with ISO 27001 and other standards.
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Why Gmail beats OWA, part 2

May 23, 2012

By Jeff Gould

A while back my esteemed co-blogger Doug Miller posted a counterpoint to my post Why Gmail beats Office 365. Doug gives a long list of reasons why, on the contrary, Office 365 beats Gmail. Although he hasn’t changed my mind about preferring Gmail, I have to admit that I agree with almost everything he says. In fact, his post has helped me to clarify my thinking about this topic. At bottom Doug’s argument boils down to the idea that Office 365 is a more powerful online tool that has more of the features that sophisticated enterprise users need, while Gmail is basically a repurposed consumer product.

I have to say I entirely agree with Doug’s argument. But it doesn’t change my mind about using Gmail, and here’s why. The reality is that Doug is a more sophisticated user than I am. He actually knows how to use all the fancy bells and whistles in Office 365 (see his post for examples) and therefore he gets the full benefit from them. I on the other hand use Gmail as a simple email tool with some very limited calendaring functionality on the side. For my purposes, the greater simplicity and speed of the Gmail user interface trump the bigger feature set of Office 365.

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What Utah CIO’s firing means for public sector cloud computing

May 16, 2012

By Jeff Gould

Utah’s Governor has just fired the state’s CIO over a data breach that let foreign hackers steal the social security numbers of 280,000 state residents. Why did this unfortunate episode happen, and what can we learn from it?

Here are the basic facts. Sometime back in March, Romanian data pirates hacked into a state database. Utah, like many states, maintains a database of Medicaid recipients that health insurance providers query to verify a patient’s entitlement status before paying for care. Unfortunately, the way the process works is badly designed: everyone who receives health care in Utah has their name queried, whether they are on Medicaid or not. The CIO can’t be held responsible for this poor workflow design choice. Most likely the politicians are to blame, or perhaps the state department that regulates health insurance in Utah.

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Why Office 365 beats Gmail

April 18, 2012

By Doug Miller
Office 365 vs. Google Apps
Jeff Gould – the co-founder of this site – just posted his piece on why he likes Google Gmail and related apps over Microsoft’s Office 365. Like Jeff, I also use both Google Apps with Gmail and Office 365. I have paid subscriptions for both with a number of users on each system and use them as both an administrator for each domain and an end user.

While Jeff likes Gmail over Office 365, I am more of a fan of Office 365. We each use email and calendaring differently and we each have different tastes for user interfaces and essential features so it is not unusual to have different preferences. For me Office 365 is a better email, contact and calendaring system.
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Why Gmail beats Office 365

April 17, 2012

By Jeff Gould

Regular readers of this blog will know that, following a self-imposed policy of eating the cloud dogfood I write about, I use both Gmail and Office 365. Now I’ve frequently argued here and elsewhere that enterprise software and advertising are two different things that don’t mix well. That’s why I think that – in the current state of play (which might change) – Office 365, based as it is on Microsoft’s rock-solid server-side Exchange and SharePoint, is a safer and more secure cloud platform than ad-driven Google Apps. Of course, Google could certainly strip out the advertising functionality from Google Apps and make it into an outstanding piece of true enterprise software. They could even make it into something that works in hybrid scenarios that combine cloud and on premises delivery. That would be a big step forward both for their larger customers (such as Federal agencies and Fortune 500 corporations) and for their long-term prospects as an enterprise provider. Maybe one day they will do this. But so far they haven’t.

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