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Consumer group slams L.A. for use, promotion of Google Apps [Updated]

October 24, 2011 |  9:18 pm


Consumer Watchdog has long been a vocal and sometimes over-the-top critic of Google and with questions rising over the implementation of Google Apps in Los Angeles' government, the Santa Monica-based group is at it again.

This time the group is complaining about Google to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the City Council and City Controller Wendy Greuel, going so far as to call Google Apps "dangerous" in a letter to the public officials written by Consumer Watchdog's president, Jamie Court, and project director John Simpson.

Google and L.A. City officials weren't available for comment on the letter on Monday night.

In their letter, Court and Simpson said that schools near Cupertino, Calif.,  that were using Google Apps were unable to send a mass email to parents in the aftermath of a recent shooting in Cupertino -- leading the group to use the heavy discriptor of "dangerous."

"Some schools in the region were locked down to protect students as authorities sought the gunman," the letter said. "However, schools in the Los Gatos Unified School District did not have the ability to send group emails to parents about the situation because they use Google Apps."

But the group doesn't just complain about Google in its letter. It also criticizes the L.A. city government for taking part in a promotional video in which city employees talk about the many advantages they saw in Google Apps that lead L.A. to move into Google's cloud.

L.A.'s City Council greenlighted the move to Google Apps in 2009 in a 12-0 vote. But some council members are now grumbling that the transition to Google Apps hasn't moved fast enough.

Consumer Watchdog said the transition so far has been a failure and took issue with a promotional video pitching L.A.'s move to Google Apps in a positive light.

"City employees should never allow themselves to be involved in a marketing campaign for one specific company's product," the letter said. "The inappropriate activity is even more egregious when the marketing campaign misstates the true situation. Google is actively misrepresenting the Los Angeles project as a success story when it clearly is not. After two years, Google hasn't delivered on its promises."

In the video, which was produced and released by Google in 2009, city officials said they expected Google Apps would allow for a savings of about $5 million over five years.

[Updated Oct. 25, 5:50 p.m.: Diana Abbati, the superintendent of the Los Gatos Unified School District, said in an emailed statement that she was unhappy with the way the Consumer Watchdog letter used her note to parents in support of the group's claims that Google Apps are "dangerous."

Abbati's statement:

I was disappointed to see my letter quoted, out of context, in an inappropriate and sensational manner. We've had a great experience using Google Apps and we appreciate Google's support along the way.

Abbati was unavailable on Wednesday to explain how her words were taken out of context, or why the school's Google-based email system was unable to send a mass email to parents regarding informing a shooting in nearby Cupertino.

In the letter quoted by Consumer Watchdog, Abbati wrote that "we have recently learned that Google no longer supports the use of sending large group emails to our parents. As a result, the District and school sites have been experiencing technical difficulties over the past week that may be interfering with your ability to receive email updates and announcements. The technology department is working to find an alternative solution to address our needs both at the site level and district-wide."

Google declined to comment on the school district or Consumer Watchdog's letter.

As the Times has noted, Consumer Watchdog is waging a campaign against Google. The group has regularly resorted to attention-seeking antics to make its case against the company. The group also has a blog specifically created to criticize Google.]


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: An employee of Los Angeles uses Gmail at work. Credit: City of Los Angeles/Google Inc. via YouTube