Monday, February 6, 2012

Google Apps privacy at work

I remember when I first started as a sysadmin (1997) my new boss told me to send emails on the assumption that copies would be sent to my boss and mother.  He was the man who ran the mail servers so I paid attention.  

I was reminded of this because of the recent Google privacy policy update. Interestingly, most of the attention has focused on what it means for the consumer products, but what I find the most relevant in the privacy statement is an explicit reference early on to Google Apps accounts (e.g. business gmail) and the role of the domain administrator (aka your IT department). Here's what they say:

"If you are using Google services in conjunction with your Google Apps Account, Google provides such services in conjunction with or on behalf of your domain administrator. Your administrator will have access to your account information including your email. Consult your domain administrator’s privacy policy for more information."

This is an important distinction for Google to make and one that I don't think enough people pay attention to. If Google are providing your company with enterprise services (corporate email, document storage and the like) they are also giving your company full control of the data too. This makes perfect sense because domain administrators have always had this and would never give it up, wherever their server is based.

That's why Google saying 'This stuff matters' is so true. It really does, but maybe not for the reasons you first thought. Meantime, I'll continue to write my emails on the assumption my boss and my mother will be reading them, privacy statement or not.

Ray Allen is managing director of Third Way IT, a cloud services provider.