Google Apps and Security and Sensitive Information

Date:     June 2, 2011
To:         Barnard Faculty and Staff
From:    BCIT
Re:         Google Apps and Security and Sensitive Information

In the fall of 2010, Barnard successfully transitioned its email and calendaring systems to Google Apps for Education (gBear) which provides the college with a robust platform for collaborative communications.  Today, BCIT is happy to announce that faculty, staff and students may now take advantage of all of the core tools for collaboration in Google Apps for Education – including Docs, Sites, Chat and Groups.  Docs and Sites will appear in your gBear menu (in the top right hand corner of gBear mail and calendar) some time in the next 24 hours. You will have to sign out and sign back in before you can see this change.

The information provided below explains the appropriate use of Google Apps, as it relates to your role at Barnard College and your handling of private and sensitive data.

Appropriate uses of Google Apps:

  1. As long as appropriate care is taken in sharing information, Google Apps is suitable for most Barnard information. This includes data that is protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as well as other information that we are not allowed to share broadly. Please note that student data should never be made publicly accessible.  For example, class rosters that includes identifying information about students should never be “published to the web.” Release of such information is a violation of FERPA.
  1. Private documents: The security of the Google Apps platform is more than sufficient for private documents, such as personal papers, class preparation and research notes.  Simply bear in mind the precautions listed in the guidelines below when sharing the document(s) with others.
  1. State and federal laws and policies control some types of information for which Google may not currently be appropriate.  Examples of controlled information include social security numbers and credit card information as well as federally protected personal health data which falls under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) regulations.  Social Security numbers may only be stored on specially designated College computers; credit card information may not be stored on any College computer. Neither should be stored on Google.  

BCIT and the College stand behind the security and the use of Google Apps, and we encourage its use for most information except where that information is incompatible with Google Apps due to federal, state or policy regulation. Policies and regulations change, so be cautious; if you are concerned or have questions, feel free to ask for guidance.

Guidelines for sharing data securely:

  • Check the email address.  Be sure that you are choosing the correct email address, as there are many similar names in the College directory.  It is also possible to share the document with any individual outside Barnard College by simply entering their an email address.  In any of these scenarios, it is essential that you are 100% certain that the email address entered is that of a colleague who you know will use the information responsibly, and that the email address belongs to the actual colleague you intend to share the information with.
  • Check the scope of distribution. Choose wisely as to whether you want those you are sharing a document with to have “view only” access or editing abilities. When you provide someone with “can edit” rights, they also have the ability to share it with others. Also, be cautious before choosing to “publish to the web.” Be very certain that the information you are publishing is appropriate for public viewing before you select that option.
  • Google Apps for Education users can invite other Google Apps users, both within Barnard College and outside the College, to view data, co-edit documents, and use other collaboration tools. It is the responsibility of each user to establish and use appropriate sharing controls in order to protect information and intellectual property, as well as to prevent accidental or undesirable document sharing.

Additional support for gBear and “Frequently Asked Questions” can be found on the BCIT website at

If you have other questions, please contact the BCIT Service Desk at 212-854-7172, or email