Google’s “do no evil” motto is being challenged this week in a complaint charging the company with secretly collecting and storing data on school children through its Chromebook and Apps for Education program.
The complaint, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with the FTC, accuses Google of unfair and deceptive business practices for monitoring the online activity of students who use its Chrome browser without obtaining their permission.
The EFF found that Google’s Chrome browser has its “Sync” feature enabled by default on Chromebook laptops the company has sold to schools through its educational program. “This allows Google to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, 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,” the civil liberties group said in a statement. “Google doesn’t first obtain permission from students or their parents and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, many parents are unable to prevent Google’s data collection.”
This directly violates a privacy agreement Google signed, along with about 200 other companies, promising to refrain from collecting, using, or sharing the personal information of students except for legitimate educational purposes or when parents grant permission.
But Google’s actions don’t just violate the privacy agreement it pledged to uphold; they also violate the Federal Trade Commission rules against deceptive business practices.
“Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit center,” EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo said in a statement. “If Google wants to use students’ data to ‘improve Google products,’ then it needs to get express consent from parents.”
Google has already told EFF that it will turn off the “Sync” feature for schools. But EFF wants the FTC to investigate Google’s conduct and prevent it from using the personal information of students for any purpose other than educational. The group also wants the FTC to order Google to destroy any information about students it has already collected through its school apps program.
This isn’t the first time that student-issued laptops have been in the news for privacy violations. In 2010, a school district in Pennsylvania secretly snapped thousands of images of students using the webcams in their school-issued laptops. Some of the images captured students at home, in bed and even partially dressed. Although the school insisted the cameras were activated only a handful of times after a laptop was reported stolen or missing, this proved to be untrue after thousands of images were discovered that had been taken from laptops never reported lost or stolen.
The complaint against Google is more widespread since it affects schools throughout the country that are using its Chromebooks; though the precise privacy violations alleged against the tech giant are much less invasive than the webcam scandal.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 Newswire Post