Interesting development, from the Edmonton Journal:
University of Alberta signs on to Gmail
EDMONTON — The University of Alberta and Google concluded legal negotiations this week, preparing the way for better e-mail service for students and entry into the Canadian university market for the Internet giant.
The contract makes legally binding Google’s promises not to data mine university Gmails or share data with a third party. University staff and students get all of Google’s Gmail applications for free, and get to retain their @ualberta.ca tags.
The contract is the first of its kind in Canada and expected to be adopted other Canadian universities now that Alberta has paved the way, University of Alberta vice-provost Jonathan Schaeffer said.
The University of Alberta currently uses more than 30 different e-mail systems across campus.
Using Gmail could save the university $2 million a year, allow a common calendar and improve the emergency response system. But when the idea was first touted publicly last January, many staff and students had privacy concerns.
Signing the contract to ease those concerns means increased legal risks for Google, which sees the free services as a way to build market loyalty but can’t otherwise profit from the deal.
“That, in part, is why it took so long,” Schaeffer said. Now, “we have a legal contract that would allow us to go after them.”
The contract took 15 months to negotiate, which was much longer than the university expected, Schaeffer said. But a legally binding framework was also needed to meet the requirements of the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The shift to Gmail will begin in January.
More than 20 Canadian universities, as well as the Canadian University Council of Chief Information Officers, sent Google letters of support during a low point in negotiations last July, indicating it would also be interested in accepting Gmail if a legal framework like the one the U of A wanted was in place.