Google always seems to be in some kind of trouble over privacy, and this time it has been accused of using Chromebooks to invade the privacy of students. On Tuesday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) made this claim against the search giant in a complaint filed with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
EFF unearthed this illicit tracking
The EFF released this new information during a campaign called ‘Spying on Students.’ The campaign, which was launched on Tuesday, was meant to look into the privacy risks of schools-supplied devices and software.
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“Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit center. If Google wants to use students’ data to ‘improve Google products’, then it needs to get express consent from parents,” EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo.
In its complaint, the privacy group has alleged that the Internet firm is violating the Student Privacy Pledge in three ways. Firstly, when students log into their Google for Education accounts, then the company collects personal information, including their use of Google services that are non-educational. The Internet firm retains this information to use for own benefit, and it is no way related to authorized educational or school purposes.
Tweaking settings for own benefit
Second, all Chromebook laptops have the ‘Chrome sync’ feature of Google’s chrome browser turned on by default. This includes those laptops as well that have been sold to schools under the ‘Google for Education’ initiative. This feature monitors and collects data on internet searches, websites visited, saved passwords and videos that the students view using the Chromebooks.
Therefore, Google is able to collect and make use of entire browsing history of students and other data for its benefit, which, again, is no way related to the authorized educational or school purposes.
Third, there is a problem with the administrative settings of ‘Google for Education.’ Google has not even given any option for users to change the Chromebook privacy settings, and only school administrators are allowed to do so. This is in violation of the Student Privacy Pledge that Google signed in 2014, making it legally enforceable under the Federal Trade Commission Act, claimed EFF.
This policy allows administrators to choose settings that share personal information of the students with Google and third-party websites without the knowledge or consent of students/parents, and this is in violation of the Student Privacy Pledge.