Google, New Mexico AG Spar Over Chromebook Student Data Collection

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New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is reportedly bringing a new lawsuit against Google over alleged student data collection. Specifically, the suit claims that Google utilizes its Google for Education free Chromebook program to illegally gather data on students. That activity, court documents claim, is in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and general US privacy protections.

Breaking down the list of allegations put forward by the New Mexico AG, the documents claim that the data collected was used for advertising up until early 2014. The company is also said to have stored the data in profiles for each student taking part in the program. That data was purportedly stored in a way that gave parents no way to access it or to limit collection.

According to AG Balderas's filing, the company collected a wide array of sensitive information. That includes physical locations, web and search histories, YouTube viewing habits, contact lists, passwords, and voice recordings. All of that data is said to have been collected without proper disclosure.

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Mr. Balderas says that the search giant's activity was not only illegal but "dangerous," since parents were not informed.

Google takes a hard stance in response to claims about student data

The response from Google to the lawsuit being filed alleging student data collection via G Suite for Education takes a firm stance. In a statement provided to the source, attributed to spokesperson Jose Castaneda, the company lambasts the claims as "factually wrong."

The search giant says that control over account access is placed solely with schools — and presumably their respective IT departments. Google indicates that G Suite for Education requires schools to obtain parental consent "when necessary" for those purposes. In fact, Google explains that school districts are in complete control when it comes to deciding how its platforms are used.

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Perhaps more importantly, the company asserts that it does not use personal information from users in primary or secondary schools. In that statement, the company expressly implies that it is applicable to its business of targeting ads.

Google's argument could prove problematic if it is found to have been collecting the data. That's especially true since the case centers solely on Chrome OS devices provided for free to schools through the G Suite for Education program.

This case, like others against Google, will likely drag on

This latest case is not the first Google has faced on the matter by any stretch. Based on those investigations, this case could drag on for quite some time as Google and the Attorney General build their cases. But, setting aside recent separate inquiries by the US Department of Justice, the search giant was sued by the AG back in 2018.

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That suit was also brought for a similar purpose, alleging that Google spies on kids in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The key difference here is that in 2018, Mr. Balderas was gunning for the company's apps and targeting children. Twitter and Android developer Tiny Lab Productions were brought in as part of that case as well.