Has Google gone too far? A San Francisco watchdog group alleges that the company has been collecting and storing data about children without their knowledge or consent.
People have known that Google collects data about their internet use for years, and this certainly influences online behavior in many ways. Despite this agreement between the company and its uses, Google’s policy on collecting data from schoolchildren offers slightly more protection from intrusion for students in an educational setting.
According to a BBC report, however, Google may not be completely honest about what kinds of information it collects about its younger users. A civil liberties group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, has accused Google of gathering and keeping information about the browsing history of children who use its products at school.
The EFF submitted a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, but Google maintains that it only collects data that will be used to improve its products and not for targeted advertising. Despite its stated commitment to respecting the privacy of its student users, the EFF insists that Google has been breaking its own rules.
The EFF alleged that Chromebooks supplied to students by the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) project were programmed to automatically synchronize the Chrome browser with other devices used by the student, which resulted in the collection of their data without their knowledge or consent.
The data collected by Google included records of the students’ browsing history, a list of the search terms that they used, the links they clicked, the videos they searched for and viewed on YouTube, and a record of their saved passwords. Furthermore, the EFF alleged that the company collected this type of information for its own purposes, which include improving services and targeting advertisements on GAFE’s non-essential applications like YouTube and Chrome.
Google says that advertisements are still absent from the program’s core applications, including Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and Sites. “There are no ads in these core services, and student data in these services is not used for advertising purposes.”
Has Google gone too far by collecting data and targeting advertisements on non-essential applications provided by their educational supplemental program? The EFF certainly thinks so. A press release from the group outlining the details of their formal FTC complaint can be found here.