A loyal EMUTalk.org reader and colleague sent me this article last week, “Google admits data mining student emails in its free education apps,” which is from a site called SafeGov.org. It’s particularly relevant as EMU makes the shift from zimbra email to Google Apps for Education (or GAE), which includes Google mail. Here’s the abstract of the article:
The other kind of interesting/kind of disturbing thing– if I’m understanding the article correctly– is if EMU wanted to, they could turn on the system so it serves up ads with your email, documents, spreadsheets, etc., and the institution would split that revenue with Google. So the email client might start generating revenue rather than the other way around!
I actually am one of the faculty who have made the switch over to the new system. If you already have a gmail account and/or you use “Google Drive” with any frequency, then you already know how it all works. There are some minor drawbacks. You can transfer files that are larger than 20 MB, so I had to go through and find all those and download them or delete them– this only took about 5 minutes with an advanced search though. The transfer of my 7GB (or so) zimbra account took over 24 hours, though I still had email available. There’s no way to automatically merge my two different gmail accounts, so I have to toggle back and forth between them– again, not a big deal, but still.
And then there is the whole advertising/data mining thing that this article talks about. I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I think it’s problematic for obvious reasons; on the other hand, I’ve been using Google Drive and Facebook and similar apps for a long time, and I guess I’ve become a little blasé about this kind of stuff.
The upside is all of the features of Google Drive, and what I’m most excited about is being able to use the various Google apps to easily share and collaborate on documents with colleagues and students. I already use these things a lot as it is; it’ll be nice to use these as my official EMU account.