I have been using Google Apps for a solid year now and I must say that it has definitely had a profound impact. My entire department (a whole three people) have adopted Google Docs and Google Calendar in order to track our daily activities in district and collaborate on projects/presentations while not in the office, which is almost every day.
I was recently asked to pilot Google Apps. for Education by our Regional Information Center, who has been working with my organization to migrate our email services to a new client. We're currently using Lotus Notes and had been exploring Outlook and Groupwise.
Nevertheless, we've decided to run with Google Apps. for the time being and examine gmail as a possible mail client. That being said, we created a domain and created usernames for several teachers/administrators who were interested in piloting the program.
As the lead, I received several emails pertaining to our pilot program. Ironically, our filters blocked access to our new gmail domain thus blocking our users from accessing their new accounts. Hopefully, my techs will be able to work that out in due time i.e. during the holiday break.
However, I also received several troubling emails that said:
"I've been talking with some of my colleagues about the proposed gmail system, and have been trying it out at home. As we discussed at the meeting, I've tried to note some concerns I'm hearing and I have have about the new system:
- Who will own the data stored on the gmail server—BOCES or Google? Will that apply to information on personal email if it is merged into school gmail?
- Since our personal agreements with gmail and other accounts permit them to mine our data, how will that be separated from school gmail?
- School email often contains private information about students, sent by parents or students themselves. How will Google safeguard this privacy against hacks and other invasion? If privacy is breached, will a teacher be liable for an exposed conversation about a student?
- BOCES has the right to view anything on our school email accounts; how will this work if our personal gmail (and other private email) accounts are connected with our school accounts?
- When we migrate to the new system, what will happen to messages stored on the old server? Will we have time to access and copy information we need from the old email system before it disappears? Will mail for @ouboces accounts be forwarded, or will we have to restart subscriptions?
- Will our email still be @ouboces.org? If not, many of us will have to change a lot of subscriptions, enews and professional contacts.
- Will smartphone access to gmail involving other service providers (Verizon, AT&T, Blackberry, etc.) raise more privacy issues? It might be an advantage to be able to check school email on your phone, but then there will be a lot more companies in a position to view and use our data."
As previously mentioned, Google has outlined their privacy policies as it relates to school data and FERPA regulations. However, the question was posed regarding personal mail that is merged into one's work email. Rather than going through an entire explanation and review of Acceptable Use Policies, I can sum it up in one response - don't merge your personal mail data with your work mail! If you don't want your employer archiving and reviewing your personal data then don't merge it through your work mail and don't access it while on work computers!
Nevertheless, I am excited to be moving forward with Google Apps. As we continue with our pilot, I have a feeling that I'll post a few more thoughts about the matter. I am optimistic that this will go well, but I will have an uphill battle with some individuals who are Google-shy.