Google+ and Gmail take over U, but not in AHC

Google cannot guarantee that it will protect patient data.
November 14, 2011

As Gmail and Google+ become the University of Minnesota’s email and social networking platforms, its health care institutions are opting out.

The University integrated Google+ into student email accounts late last month as part of its greater migration to Gmail. The school is among the first to officially adopt the new social network.

But the Academic Health Center may never adopt Gmail due to concerns of patient privacy and federal health privacy regulations, said Ross Janssen, the AHC’s privacy and security officer.

The AHC and other University health care institutions use Google’s calendar and document sharing applications on a separate secure domain, but will continue to use the school’s older system, including GopherMail, to communicate.

Janssen said none of the other institutions he’s talked to have put their health care components on Google, because the company hasn’t signed a legal agreement to promise protection of patient information.

The implementation of Gmail and Google+ would take some control from the AHC in protecting patient data.

“It centers around how much auditing capability we have,” Janssen said.

For now, the AHC will stay tied to the University’s GopherMail system, leaving the department out of the social networking and Gmail loop.

Google+ was made available to the general public in September, but the site hasn’t breached the top tier of social networking sites, according to trend-tracking company MarketingCharts.

Psychology student Joshua Klapperick said he prefers Google+, since Facebook has become “overrun with needless stuff.”

“I have a moderate amount of friends [on Google+], but it’s the friends I prefer talking to,” he said.

Facebook still gets about 64 percent of social networking traffic, the data shows, and is followed by YouTube and Twitter.

Google+ appears successful, with more than 40 million users, according to the company’s third-quarter earnings report. But the traffic numbers show the users aren’t frequenting the network as they do other websites.

Currently, students still have to opt in to use Gmail and applications like Google’s calendar and documents.

Nearly 64,000 students across all University campuses now use Google’s applications, said Bernard Gulachek, a senior director at the University’s Office of Information Technology.

Faculty and staff also have access to Google+ and other Google applications, though alumni, who maintain their University email accounts, haven’t been integrated into the system yet.

Eventually, the entire University will switch to using Gmail as its standard communications platform, phasing out GopherMail for good.

Gulachek said OIT is targeting to discontinue GopherMail for faculty and students by the end of December.

Meanwhile, Google’s technology continues to be integrated into academia nationwide.

The University Libraries, along with the rest of the Big Ten universities, started a partnership with Google to digitize millions of books and magazines.

The project, which will make the materials searchable online, will start winding down this year, said Wendy Lougee, the University librarian.

The University is not alone as an early adopter of Google+, as Arizona State, Boise State, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest universities have also recently implemented the social network.

Associated Content

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