New Features: Force Chats on the Record and Store Them in Google Vault

by Denise Hazime on April 16, 2015

Google Chat can be accessed on the left-hand sidebar in Gmail or from Google Hangouts. In the past, individual users were able to take chats “off the record” or turn off chat history. Now, Google has given Google Apps administrators the power to force all chats to be on the record, and chat history to be recorded and stored in Google Vault. Having the ability to force chat history to be recorded is very good news for organizations that need to be able to recall chat history for compliance, legal or other reasons. Adminstrators will be able to disable Google Talk and only allow chats to occur within Google Hangouts, which can then be recorded and stored in Google Vault. You will also have the option to continue to allow users to decide whether or not to use both Google Talk and Google Hangouts, which will essentially give them the option to have logged conversations on Google Hangouts and chats which are not logged on Google Talk if they choose to take the chat off the record. The administrator will now see two new options in the chat settings in the Admin console, allowing them to force Hangouts chat history to be on or off and require only Hangouts chat to be used.

While chat hosts also previously had the option to default all Hangouts conversations history to on or off, chat participants could change this on a per-conversation basis. With this new feature, admins can ensure chat participants cannot change this setting for new conversations in Google Hangouts. If you select “Hangouts chat or Google Talk”, users can choose to use Google Talk for private conversations if they take the chat off the record. This option would allow employees to have personal conversations with Google Talk and logged, employment-related conversations with Google Hangouts. It’s important to note that third-party chat clients will not work with this option enabled; users will also not be able to chat within Google Docs or video Google Hangouts.

Store Chats in Google Vault

Google Vault lets your company retain, archive, search, and export user data in compliance with eDiscovery guidelines. With this new update, Vault will store Hangouts chat histories. For customers already using Vault, full chat retention for all messages will start automatically once chat history is forced on with the new admin panel setting. In order to store chat history properly, ensure that your users have Hangouts and Gmail both enabled. Users who have access to Hangouts (such as mobile users of the Hangouts app) but do not have Gmail accounts cannot be archived. When you enable Gmail for an account that has only Hangouts turned on, Vault will only archive Hangouts that occur after Gmail is enabled.

Rolling it Out Properly – Notify Before Turning on Chat History Storage

To avoid embarrassment and potential legal implications, IT admins should notify employees if they choose to force all chats to be logged through an internal notice, before the new feature is turned on. If they choose to allow users to chat privately with Google Talk, they should let them know this as well prior to turning on the feature.

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