Google contends it treats its paying customers differently than nonpaying ones. "Enterprise customers using Google Apps for Government, Business or Education have individual contracts that define how we handle and store their data," Google Enterprise Vice President Amit Singh said in a statement.
Singh's comment came after SafeGov.org, a cloud security forum co-founded by Karen Evans, the top information technology leader in the George W. Bush administration, issued a statement Wednesday that the new Google policy raises serious privacy concerns for paying Google Apps for Government users.
Spell Out Rights in Contract
Data privacy lawyer Francoise Gilbert of the IT Law Group says cloud service providers generally don't seek to control paying customers' data. "In general, when a company pays for a service, most service providers will not use the data per se; that is, they would not create databases and start emailing your customers," says Gilbert, who has negotiated contract terms with cloud providers for large, global corporate clients. "Of course, it is a good thing to make sure your contract with Google or with the cloud provider says so."
Gilbert says Google generally agrees to provisions limiting its use or access to data, clarifying what it will or will not do with the information. "For example," she says, "if a company negotiates a mail management application, Google would agree not to access the mails, not to review the mails, not to send an advertisement like this is the case on Gmail."
Google doesn't necessarily need to integrate products for its commercial customers to generate income from them because it charges fees for its services; for large organizations, those charges could total millions of dollars.