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Google sues US gov for picking Microsoft

Feds dodge Google Apps over security

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Google has sued the US government, claiming the Department of the Interior didn't give Google a fair shake when it settled on hosted email and collaboration services from Microsoft.

According to Google's suit, first turned up by Santa Clara law professor and tech law blogger Eric Goldman, the Department of the Interior recently floated an RFQ (request for quotation) for a hosted service that will provide email and collaboration tools for roughly 88,000 people across the agency, and it stated that the department would only consider proposals involving the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite.

Google claims the DOI's decision is "unduly restrictive of competition." The suit seeks injunctions that will prevent the department from moving ahead with the RFQ.

According to the suit, Google repeatedly tried to engage the Department of the Interior in "substantive discussions," hoping to convince the agency that it should consider Google Apps, Mountain View's suite of online business tools. Google did eventually meet with the department on multiple occasions, but apparently it didn't go well. At one meeting in April, the suit says, the department told Google that a "path forward has already been chosen" and that Google would not be able to compete for the contract because its services didn't meet the department's security needs.

During the meeting, Google claims, the department did not define its security requirements. But during subsequent discussions, the DOI said it had "not finalized its procurement strategy," and there was some back-and-forth over what Google could and could not provide.

Part of the discussions, the suit says, involved Google's ability to meet FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) security requirements and to provide a service whose "underlying infrastructure" is operated solely for the DOI. Google eventually received its FISMA certification, but the company doesn't offer private "underlying infrastructure" to Google Apps customers. According to the suit, Google claimed that such was not required by FISMA and that it did not represent "industry best practice," pointing the DOI to other major organizations that use Google Apps.

In the suit, Google claims that by August 11 it had obtained a DOI screenshot that indicated that a department "pilot" project to migrate 5,000 DOI users to Microsoft's platform had been underway for months. And according to the suit, by the end of August the DOI had sent out the RFQ stating that the department had settled on Microsoft's service.

In announcing that it had received FISMA certification, Google also told government agencies that it would segregate Gmail and Google Calendar data into their own US-only portion of Google's back-end infrastructure — a move that goes beyond FISMA. Google freely admitted that this doesn't necessarily mean added security, but clearly, it's struggling to compete with Microsoft in the government market and will go to extreme lengths to win contracts. That includes suing the US government. ®

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