Google Under Fire for Collecting, Misusing Child Data

In their own words, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. That’s a tall task. This week they’ve announced that they are taking on a very powerful opponent – Google.

The EFF’s claim, filed in a complaint with the FTC yesterday, is that Google is spying on children’s data, including their internet search history, enabled by their role in a vast effort to provide updated technology tools to schools. EFF claims that a number of Google actions violate the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document that has been signed by over 200 vendors who sell or provide technology products to schools.

EFF-spying-on-studentsAs part of EFF’s Spying on Students campaign, they examined Google actions related to school Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education, and claim that, without parental consent:

  • Google collected and data mined students’ personal information
  • Google tracked and stored records of “every internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords”
  • Google also may have shared student personal information with third-party websites

As of yesterday, and ahead of any FTC investigation, Google has agreed to a partial modification of its practices, but it appears that EFF thinks there is a lot of work left to be done.

We talk to parents all the time whose children use school-issued (and mandated) technology devices, software and services, and they have concerns. What we don’t hear is that one of their concerns is the data privacy of their children, but there have been rumblings in the media over the last year that student Gmail privacy might be an issue. EFF is making the issue a broader one.

Google is a huge company with a great position in the education market and a lot to lose. We expect them to do the right thing here.




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