By Kim Hart - 04/06/10 11:15 AM EDT
In a few months, Google wants to incorporate its social networking Buzz feature into enterprise versions of Gmail, The Hill has confirmed. The Buzz feature allows Gmail users to connect with other e-mail contacts to show updates, photos and links.
Google received a firestorm of criticism when it first released Buzz for violating Gmail users' privacy. Google added users' Gmail contacts to their Buzz lists without first asking their permission, say privacy groups and some lawmakers.
Google quickly changed its privacy policies to require users to opt in to the feature before sharing any of their information. Today, Google will ask Gmail users to reconfirm their privacy settings, including their current lists of feed subscribers, to help address any lingering concerns.
Now Google wants to adapt the Buzz feature into the version of Gmail that it sells to agencies and other organizations, said Mike Bradshaw, Google's head of federal sales.
Speaking at a cloud-computing conference in Washington on Monday, Bradshaw said adding new functions to its enterprise applications is the logical next step.
But he acknowledged the early stumble.
"We got a bit of a ding by the press," he said. "Fortunately we were able to correct it and in four days changed the policies."
One of Google's biggest efforts over the past few years is to get the government to adopt cloud-computing applications, such as Google Maps, Gmail, Google Docs and other Web-based programs. The company has made major strides in getting local governments to move their employees "to the cloud." For example, Los Angeles and Orlando, Fla., have adopted Gmail and other Google tools.
Federal agencies have so far been more wary of cloud computing because of the perceived privacy and security risks involved in storing sensitive data on company-owned servers. But with the backing of White House tech gurus Aneesh Chopra and Vivek Kundra, many agencies are now taking advantage of some of the tools made available by the General Services Administration at Apps.gov.
Amazon, SalesForce.om, Cisco and Microsoft are among the other major companies competing for the federal cloud-computing market.
The enterprise versions of Google products meet specified security standards, especially if they are used by the government.
But it's unclear how eager agencies will be to embrace Buzz after the uproar of the past two months.