Google accused of spying on students in FTC complaint

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Google accused of spying on students in FTC complaint

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Tuesday filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in which it said that Google is breaking a pledge to keep students’ personal information private and is using things like a student’s entire browsing history to build profiles to use for its own purposes.

The EFF said in a release that it uncovered Google’s data mining of schoolchildren’s personal information while researching its Spying on Students campaign, which launched the same day the EFF filed the complaint.

Those devices collect “far more information on kids than is necessary,” the EFF says, and store it “indefinitely,” sometimes even uploading it to the cloud automatically.

From the campaign’s site:

In short, [digital devices are] spying on students – and school districts, which often provide inadequate privacy policies (or no privacy policy at all), are helping them.


The EFF examined Google’s Chromebook and Google Apps for Education (GAFE), a suite of educational cloud-based software programs used in many US schools by students as young as 7.

The group says it found that Google’s “Sync” feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools.

That gives Google all the access it needs to build profiles on students, the EFF said, all without permission from students or their parents.

Google’s one of 200 companies that have signed the pledge, which holds the companies accountable to:

  • Not sell student information
  • Not behaviorally target advertising
  • Use data for authorized education purposes only
  • Not change privacy policies without notice and choice
  • Enforce strict limits on data retention
  • Support parental access to, and correction of errors in, their children’s information
  • Provide comprehensive security standards
  • Be transparent about collection and use of data

The Guardian quoted a Google spokesperson who said that Google’s hands are clean:

Our services enable students everywhere to learn and keep their information private and secure. While we appreciate EFF’s focus on student privacy, we are confident that these tools comply with both the law and our promises, including the Student Privacy Pledge.

The EFF says that Google told the organization that it plans to disable the setting on school Chromebooks that allows Chrome Sync data, such as browsing history, to be shared with other Google services.

Click here to read the full article and learn more about the FTC and Privacy Policy

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