Google says privacy policy doesn't apply to government email

This article has been updated to include comment from Google and GSA

Google's controversial new privacy policies will not apply to users of the Google Apps for Government enterprise email system, such as the General Services Administration, a Google official said Wednesday.

The statement came after Karen Evans, the former director of electronic government during the George W. Bush administration, called Google's new privacy policy "unacceptable" and said it could jeopardize future government contracts with Google.

Evans was referring to a Tuesday announcement in which Google said it would begin integrating personal information collected from users on many of its different online services, including Gmail, YouTube, Picasa and basic Google searches, an aim moved largely at delivering higher value information to advertisers and so raising the price of Google ads.

Evans expressed her view in a joint statement with Peerstone Research CEO Jeff Gould, one of her partners in, a cloud computing best practices discussion forum.

"We recommend that Google immediately suspend the application of its new privacy policy to [Google Apps for Government] users," the pair wrote. "The default setting for GAFG and for all similar services from other vendors should be no information sharing at all between services. Furthermore, Google should clarify where its consumer product line ends and its enterprise products begin. Government users want to be assured that the cloud services they use are tailored to the unique security and privacy requirements of the public sector."

Google's enterprise branch quickly clarified, though, that the new policy does not apply to enterprise systems such as Google Apps for Government, Business or Education, which are defined by individual customer contracts.

"As always, Google will maintain our enterprise customers' data in compliance with the confidentiality and security obligations provided to their domain," Google Vice President Amit Singh said in a statement. "The new Privacy Policy does not change our contractual agreements, which have always superseded Google's privacy policy for enterprise customers."

The General Services Administration also issued a statement saying the new Google terms do not affect its Google email system.

"Our usage of the Google Apps solution is governed by contractual agreement with Google and our prime contractor, Unisys," the agency said. "The solution is compliant with all federal regulations and requirements, including those regarding privacy and data protection."

GSA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several other agencies have moved to Google Apps for Government for email, calendar and other functions. GAFG is essentially a more secure version of the search giant's popular Gmail system with its add-on features such as Google Docs and Google Sites.