In an effort to cut costs, the city of Los Angeles is mulling a $7.25 million contract
to shed its antediluvian e-mail system in exchange for Google Apps, the search company's suite of e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet and other generally useful utility programs.
By outsourcing a big hunk of its communication system to Google, however, the city would no longer be directly responsible for the manner in which its own information is stored and secured. And because city officials frequently use e-mail to send protected documents -- as when a police official would send digitized criminal records to a colleague -- Google would become the de facto steward of huge amounts of confidential information.
Is that something the city and its residents should worry about?
Maybe, said Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and chief security technology officer at British Telecom. Everyone who uses a computer relies on security systems they barely understand, outsourcing the important choices to IT managers and hoping they get it right. Even the people in charge of security have to assume...