Google entered the education scene with a bang, showing off Google Apps For Education and specially made Chromebooks for the classroom. These have made wonderful replacements for traditional computers in classrooms, but there seem to be some privacy concerns. The Electronic Frontier Foundation went to the Federal Trade Commission recently with complaints that Google’s educational services collect, store and use student data for non-educational purposes, mainly through the “Chrome Sync” feature. If this is proven true, it will be a violation of the legally enforceable Student Privacy Pledge, which Google signed when it was drafted in 2014. The Student Privacy Pledge protects students from having their personal information and other data collected, stored or transmitted except under certain strict, education-centric conditions or with parent and student permission.
Supposedly,the data being collected includes things like search histories, online behavior and non-educational internet activity. This data could be used for targeted advertising, which Google says it has not and will not engage in with educational services, or for more general purposes such as user group aggregation, surveying or integration of students’ educational and non-educational profiles, all of which are condemned under the Student Privacy Pledge. Google claims that their data collection in regards to educational services is strictly by the books and compliant with applicable laws and agreements, but they will disable the Chrome Sync feature from being on by default in Chromebooks sold to schools. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, however, feels that this is not enough on Google’s part and are taking their concerns to the Federal Trade Commission in the hopes of getting more done.
Google’s business model and products revolve around user data collection, meaning that their claims that their educational products meet standards would have to mean that there have been drastic core changes made to these from the Google norm. The Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a campaign to look over current educational technologies and search for possible privacy concerns, which is how they managed to find out that Google may not be holding themselves to satisfactory standards for data collection and use in education. With over 40 million users, Google’s educational products and services definitely have a lot to answer for, should this complaint turn out to have any merit.