While Chromebooks are generally considered to be one of the hit devices of 2015, towards the close of the year, they did begin to start to attract some unwanted attention. This was to do with a very specific section of the Chromebook market, the education sector. The issue was that the Electronics Frontier Foundation (the company currently undergoing dealings with T-Mobile and Binge On), had looked into the suite of software which is designed for Chromebook use in the Classroom and were concerned that the software could be pulling more student data than it should be.
Within hours of the reports coming through, Google did respond publicly by issuing a blog post defending their position and stating that they do feel they act within the boundaries of the law, the agreement they had signed known as the ‘Student Privacy Pledge’ and that they do all they can to ensure Chromebooks for Education are safe for students. Of course with a situation as tender as being accused of mining student data, that was unlikely to be the end of the situation and it is not
Today, Senator Al Franken sent an open letter to Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, actively asking for further explanation on the situation, what data is collected by Google and how the data is collected. Sen. Franken made it clear that Google’s general moves into the classroom are ones to be commended, but at the same time highlighted that the issue and “the extent to which Google may be collecting K-12 students’ personal data” is something to be concerned about. As well as the actual data collection, Sen. Franken was also concerned as to whether students have the ability to “consent to this collection of data” in the first place.
As a result, in the open letter, Sen. Franken specifically asks Google to provide information on a number of key points. Like for example, “When a student is using a Chromebook but is not using one of the GAFE services, what kind of data does Google collect on an individual student?“. Of course, so far there is no official word or response from Google on the open letter, although, it is likely we will hear more about this in due course. In the meantime, those interested in reading the open letter in full including the number of questions specifically asked about the collection of data, can do so by heading through the source link below.