Did Google Inc. break its promise of not tracking school kids?


Internet privacy is a major right for every user that surfs the internet nowadays. Countless disputes on such topics have found their way to the court room, which indicates the significance of the specific subject.

Google, has now risen a wave of criticism, as the giant tech company is believed to have been keeping record of searches and terms typed by school kids, despite its pledge not to do so. The information was officially released on Tuesday, by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The digital rights group, advocates that Google, with all the data collected by school kids through the Google Education program, is in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Communications Act.

In a 16paged document, the Electric Frontier Foundation asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the incident.

Τhe document states that Google is violating the Student Privacy Pledge in three ways.

“First, when students are logged in to their Google for Education accounts, student personal information in the form of data about their use of non-educational Google services is collected, maintained, and used by Google for its own benefit, unrelated to authorized educational or school purposes. Second, the “Chrome Sync” feature of Google’s Chrome browser is turned on by default on all Google Chromebook laptops – including those sold to schools as part of Google for Education – thereby enabling Google to collect and use students’ entire browsing history and other data for its own benefit, unrelated to authorized educational or school purposes. And third, Google for Education’s Administrative settings, which enable a school administrator to control settings for all program Chromebooks, allow administrators to choose settings that share student personal information with Google and third-party websites in violation of the Student Privacy Pledge,” reads the document.

Google has established a wide range of extensive programs for educators. In fact, the company sells its low-end Chromebooks to both student and teachers at proportionally low prices and it supplies them with apps and features that can be used in the classroom for educational purposes.

And the number of people that declare their interest is surprisingly high. Last month, Google said more than 50 million students and teachers around the globe were using Google Apps for Education, along with 10 million Chromebooks. The Google-powered laptops are “the best-selling device in U.S. K-12 schools,” according to Google.

Still, the EFF argues that Google is recording all kind of user activity on the internet, including search history, search results they click on and videos they watch on YouTube.

Google declined to discuss the specifics of the EFF’s allegations but provided a statement:

“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.”

While that is a small step in the right direction, it doesn’t go nearly far enough to correct the violations of the Student Privacy Pledge currently inherent in Chromebooks being distributed to schools,” the EFF said.

This is not the first time that Google is involved in such a case. Not a long time ago, France’s data-protection regulator – also known as the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) – rejected Google’s appeal  to expand Europe’s “right to be forgotten” to every one of its websites worldwide, including Google.com.

It seems that with great power, comes great responsibilities, whatever that could mean in this case. It can be hard to keep all sides satisfied and Google seems to know that feeling.

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