LA officials question Google Apps plan

Los Angeles' proposal to move government documents to Google Apps is being questioned after sensitive Twitter data on Google Apps is exposed by hacker.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

A Los Angeles councilman and the head of a police group are questioning the city's plan to move government e-mail and other records onto Google's hosted Web service Google Apps.

"Anytime you go to a Web-based system, that puts you just a little further out than you were before," LA City Councilman Tony Cardenas told The Associated Press. "Drug cartels would pay any sum of money to be aware of our progress on investigations."

Paul Weber, president of the LA Police Protective League, also said he is worried about the safety of sensitive police investigation records if they are moved to Google Apps.

The concerns come after sensitive Twitter documents were stolen by a hacker who gained access to a Twitter employee's Yahoo e-mail account and from there got information that allowed access to the company's data on Google Apps. Although the breach occurred in May, the severity of the situation wasn't clear until last week when the hacker fed the data to TechCrunch for public posting.

While Twitter executives noted that there was no security vulnerability in Google Apps, the linking of personal and work e-mail by the employee, re-use of passwords on multiple accounts, and easy to guess security questions allowed an outsider to steal confidential information and expose it to the world.

Washington, D.C., is the first major U.S. city to sign up for the $50 per user per year service. Seattle, meanwhile, is using Google's Postini service called Message Security.

"Government agencies at all levels - federal, state, and city - are looking to cloud computing as way to advance innovation while decreasing costs," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

"We agree that security is a very important consideration for any organization considering cloud computing, and we've been working very closely with the City of Los Angeles to address any questions and concerns government officials or citizens might have," the statement said. "Security is at the core of how we design Google Apps, and as the City of Los Angeles' evaluation report notes, the proposed cloud computing system is an improvement over the level of security currently in place. It also provides other benefits of cloud computing -- such as increased innovation at reduced cost -- which are driving the city's request for a cloud solution to suit its IT needs."

Updated 11:35 a.m. PDT with Google comment.