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Walter Watts
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The LAPD's Gmail Fail
« on: 2010-07-27 17:57:36 »
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As Bugs Bunny would say: "What a bunch of maroons."
--Walter
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The LAPD's Gmail Fail

ARTICLE DATE:  07.27.10
By  John C. Dvorak

The Los Angeles Police Department is willing to spend $7 million for 20,000 e-mail accounts. What the heck are they thinking?

How dumb is the Los Angeles Police Department's decision to pay Google $7 million to take over its e-mail system? And the coppers want some sort of assurance of their e-mail's privacy. Good luck with that. Google apparently couldn't meet the deadline to show that Gmail is indeed safe and secure. This leads me to believe that Google is doing something hinky with its Webmail service. It's probably doing data mining to squeeze more money out of its advertisers.

When I first read about the deal, I thought that the LAPD was boneheaded to pay $7 million when it could set up its own network of Gmail accounts for free. But how would it look to get an official police e-mail from a Gmail account? Who would believe that? Or Hotmail for that matter? What the LAPD does not need is a system that gets hacked every so often.

Whatever the case, it seems like a lot of money for 20,000 e-mail accounts. That's $250 per employee e-mail address. Use the post office, it's cheaper. And I'm sure there's a maintenance fee on top of that. I don't see the great convenience and savings that's supposed to arise from using the ever-so-important "cloud." I guess $350 a head for free e-mail is progress to some people. I don't see it.

This brings me to the public versus private e-mail phenomenon. It's a royal pain when you've been communicating with someone via their corporate e-mail, and all of the sudden they get fired. You can't find them. That's why I use my own domain name in most correspondence and have all corporate messages forwarded to my personal account. I recommend that for everyone.

If you leave a company, one of two things happens. Either your corporate account is killed and no one bothers to set up forwarding, or e-mails to your old address will be forwarded to some grab bag account, where they will be read by someone else. There should be laws against both of these things. A company should be required to forward your e-mail for at least a year. It costs nothing to do this!

As for reading your private messages—this should be a felony. It's that simple. If this practice is suspected, it would take little effort for an investigator to take the IT guy to the interrogation room and have him tell you if this is happening. He will.

So, how do you handle police department e-mail? The police must have an official domain name like LAPD.com, LosAngeles.gov, cityofLA.mil, or any number of domains that convince the public that this is a police officer and not a scammer. And the police cannot use a celebrity or vanity e-mail address such as Larry@larry.com.

But $7 million for 20,000 people? Cripes! Go to Craigslist and hire three programmers and an IT guy for less than $1 million. Have them set up something with security built-in. I personally know a dozen guys who could do this well and need the work. Over the years, there has come to be a penchant for "buy, buy, buy," when "make" would be a lot cheaper—and better. What changed?

It's worsened since the advent of the high paid government worker. They must curiously think that people in the private sector are making the kind of money government workers now make. Government workers make more money for the same jobs, get better benefits, and much better pensions. Look this up for yourself. And while $7 million is chump change for Google, it's a lot of money for 20,000 e-mail accounts.

What's missing from this picture is the opportunity for a company like Hushmail.com, which offers secure encrypted free e-mail, to take advantage of the situation. There's no real reason any department of 20,000 users cannot pay a reasonable fee for a domain link and simple hosting by Hushmail using the LAPD.com address. It would cost a lot less than $7 million. At least I'd hope so.

And then there's the $2 a month per user lash up that uses any domain name you already have. There's a $10 set-up fee per user for that. For the 20,000 users that means $200,000 in a one-time set-up fee plus $40,000 a month for all the users, for a total of $680,000 outlay for the first year and $480,000 a year thereafter. It would take over 10 years to reach the $7 million number! And I bet they'd even do a deal!

Since Hushmail is in the business of secure e-mail and not in the business of selling advertisements, I'd feel a lot safer there as a police officer than on Gmail. But it doesn't matter what I think. Google has more clout, and that's all that matters in today's world. It's a shame. It also appears to be a big FAIL.

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Walter Watts
Tulsa Network Solutions, Inc.


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