Sherri over at Philosecurity has done some legwork in posting an article about the move many state governments are making to Google. This article is a good, thought-provoking one in its own right, but the comments make this really a good read.
I’m not quiet about my mistrust of Google. But I’m also not being necessarily shy about my use of Gmail or Google Reader. My biggest issue is they’re a public company that has to, first and foremost, answer to the money (i.e. their stakeholders). And they make a lot of their money via data mining, tracking, controlling, and/or logging what you search for and see and do. Google has not necessarily been like the other third-party providers and contractors whose money comes from exactly what they’re offering in terms of IT support or government service.
Google is basically the 2.0 version of AOL; they want a walled garden. But where AOL tried to focus on bringing in users first and make a separate garden, Google is focusing on bringing in everything the users already use anyway including all the data with it, and take over the existing garden.
Strangely, I would feel slightly better if Google managed things on equipment and in locations that the government actually owned, rather than basically offering it all as a service of some sort. Maybe it has to do with a company seemingly bigger and more important than even a government, hypothetically?
It is also interesting that we’ll (as in I, probably) trust RIM/Blackberry, homed in Canada, but not Google, homed in the US. That might say a lot about image, perceived use (data mining), or actual scope of use (just text/mail/voice communication).
Still, it is hard to tell state governments a flat-out, “No,” on a situation like this, especially in the face of falling budgets and rising debts. That sort of situation is ripe for someone to swipe in with low bids…for whatever monetary reason they may have, and I can guarantee it isn’t altruistic, philanthropic, or patriotic. It’s economic, in Google’s favor.
One thing I don’t like about data being housed in strange locations, is our human tendency to be nosy. If Britney Spears is in a hospital, we have plenty of people who will nose through her files. If someone paid you to nose through them, the incentive becomes very real for internal espionage. This won’t be new with Google, as every government contractor should feel this issue, but it would certainly feel new in perception.
Commentors in that article make great points on all sides of the d-20 (amongst those that are simply very myopic). I actually find it very hard to make solid points on either side of the argument, hence a lot of feeling and perception in my above assertions.