Google classified

The popular search engine Google is joining forces with federal-sector vendors to extend its reach into the defense and intelligence markets.

By making use of the partners’ security clearances and government relationships, Google hopes to place its enterprise products on classified government networks. Twelve information technology firms -- including LMN Solutions and EagleForce Associates -- have already undergone training and paid Google $10,000 in annual fees to collaborate.

The Google Enterprise Professional Program sends Google-certified vendors, developers and consultants to install its search appliance boxes at businesses and government agencies.

Google recently began selling business tools -- the Google Search Appliance, the Google Mini and the Google Desktop Search for Enterprise –- that apply the search functions of Google.com to company Web sites, intranets and desktop PCs.

Last spring, the free consumer version of Google Desktop drew fire from analysts for opening up the contents of PCs to passersby and thieves. But Google officials say they have added a layer of encryption to the enterprise version that renders files inaccessible when crooks attempt to re-create search indexes.

All three Google products allow systems administrators to restrict access to results and grant special permissions to individual employees.

Google officials say the new partner program is intended to develop more complex applications of its search technology.

“We don’t know all the particular uses of our product,” said Dave Girouard, general manager for Google Enterprise. “We want to really focus on our role as a technology provider. We would never be hugely successful as consultants.”

For instance, EagleForce built a database that helped the Wichita, Kan., Police Department tag the serial killer known as BTK, for "bind, torture, kill." The system narrowed the list of potential suspects from millions of people to one, Dennis Rader.

Google said it could enhance such a system, as well as help EagleForce continue its ongoing work for the Defense Department on anti-terrorism initiatives.

“The world’s biggest guy and the guys who organize content for the Defense Department make a very good match,” said Stanley Campbell, EagleForce’s chief executive officer. “We think that they are going to be a natural fit, especially for the areas that involve themselves with large datasets and clearly defined data organization.”

But some search consultants say Google’s ranking system does not offer anything special to help in chasing down enemies.

George Kondrach, executive vice president of information management consulting firm Innodata Isogen, said Google will face challenges in extracting useful data for intelligence analysts, who are looking for “unusual patterns, new patterns, no patterns, changing patterns, intentionally obscured patterns, deep patterns, arcane patterns or convoluted patterns.”

Kondrach has been aiding the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency with search projects for about a year.

“For those things that Google does find, it will rank them based on popularity. When there are a lot of hits, that means that many relevant occurrences will be overlooked in favor of the highest-ranked hits,” he said. “This diminishes the value of Google for the intelligence-use case of finding meaningful information patterns.”

For more mundane tasks, such as finding human resources forms, PowerPoint slides or spreadsheets, other enterprise search software works just as well as Google, Kondrach said.

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