Correction: The article incorrectly described Jeff Gould, a technology consultant affiliated with SafeGov.org, as a former employee of the federal Office of Management and Budget. This version has been corrected.
The privacy policies of Google and other tech firms could allow them to mine personal data held by government agencies that use cloud-based e-mail, database and document services, an industry group warned.
Privacy groups have long expressed concern about how companies gather and use personal information for targeting ads or other commercial purposes. Safegov.org favors the creation of privacy policies written specifically to prohibit data mining when government agencies use cloud-based services from Google and others.
Google officials say their contracts with government entities include rules on how data may be used. “As always, Google will maintain our enterprise customers’ data in compliance with the confidentiality and security obligations provided to their domain,” said Amit Singh, vice president of Google Enterprise, in a statement, repeating a comment made in January.
Those contracts with government entities can be public documents, though agencies sometimes do not make their specific terms, such as privacy policies, easily available.
The federal government has pushed in recent years to move data to cloud-based services, which officials say are cheaper and more reliable. The General Services Administration has taken a leading role in that effort, moving its employees to Gmail and adopting other services from the company.
SafeGov.org says its concerns extend to state and local governments, as well as schools and other public institutions. “It’s just not appropriate to have data mining,” Gould said. “If they’re not doing that, then let them say that.”