Google refute’s EFF’s “spying on students” allegations

3 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Accused Of Collecting Data On Young Students’ Internet Activity.

Washington:- Google collects schoolchildren’s personal data, including internet searches, a civil liberties group says. A leading privacy watchdog has charged that Google is collecting and using students’ data through software installed on laptops marketed especially to schools, in violation of the company’s stated commitment to protecting student privacy.Yesterday, the EFF announced the launch of a campaign called ‘Spying on Students’ to raise awareness about privacy risks for technology used at schools.Google is disputing the accusation that it invaded the privacy of students using laptop computers powered by the tech giant’s Chrome operating system.

Search giant Google has been accused of collecting data from school children as young as seven, despite making a legally-binding commitment to refrain from such shady activities.A digital rights watchdog asked the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday to investigate Google’s popular education service, alleging that it violates the company’s pledge to restrict its use of student data.If there’s one place where Google’s low-cost notebooks running Chrome have caught on, it’s in schools: 3.4 million Chromebooks were shipped to the educational sector in 2014, with the majority of those ending up in the hands of students.

The campaign came with a complaint that it filed with the FTC against Google, claiming that the company collects and data mines school children’s personal info, including what they search for. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says Chromebooks sold to schools mine students’ data for non-advertising purposes thanks to the “Sync” functionality in Google Chrome. “Despite publicly promising not to, Google mines students’ browsing data and other information, and uses it for the company’s own purposes,” said EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo in a press release. “Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit center. Google’s use of children’s data is just one component in a larger discussion of how to define consumer rights in data collection and what level of responsibility technology companies should bear in protecting their data.

If Google wants to use students’ data to ‘improve Google products,’ then it needs to get express consent from parents.” Google told the EFF that it will disable the setting on school Chromebooks that allow Chrome Sync data to be shared in the near future. The complaint alleges that Google rigged the “Chromebook” computers in a way that enables the company to collect information about students’ Internet search requests and online video habits. The company reportedly keeps records of every website students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords. The complaint by the EFF, which in the past has sided with Google on other issues, focuses on the so-called sync feature of Google’s Chrome Web browser that stores bookmarks, passwords, and browsing and search history.

The company originally balked at signing the pledge, which was endorsed by President Obama, saying its own privacy policies were already comprehensive. After initially declining to sign the pledge, Google eventually caved in to pressure from advocacy groups in January, amid fears that it would open the door to students’ personal information being used for advertising purposes. Google is one of more than 200 companies that have signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a document that holds companies legally accountable for maintaining student privacy and preventing the unauthorized sale or misuse of their data.

But it relented in January after the pledge – created by a Washington-based privacy think tank and a software industry trade group – gained further support. The feature allows users to ensure they’ve got the same browser setup regardless of which computer they’re on, and in order to sync settings across the Internet, Google needs to upload those settings to its servers.

It all comes back to Google’s Chromebooks (and Google Apps for Education suite) being doled out at school and a “sync” feature, that’s turned on by default, potentially tying personal data to school work, activities and communications. But with several high-profile data breaches and leaks over the past few years, such as the NSA spying program disclosed by Edward Snowden or the recent hack of toymaker V-Tech, he says, “I think parents in general are much more aware about the collection of data – and the exposure of data – than they ever were before…

Google collected this information using the “Sync” feature in the Chrome browser, the default browser of the popular Chromebooks used by many schools. What’s changed is parents’ level of trust in the system doing right for their kids.” While many states have passed laws aimed at protecting students’ data, the EFF’s complaint marks the first time the FTC’s enforcement over technology companies has been directly challenged, Mr.

It’s clear that Google’s mission to get their computers into schools and enterprise organizations is to clasp down on a new potential stream of Google (and Alphabet) consumers. “Get em while they’re young” is a battle cry for many marketers, but Google has made a statement to set the record straight. The news comes after toy-maker VTech admitted today that it has suffered a devastating cyber attack, resulting in millions of pictures of children being stolen, along with their names and birthdays. The EFF complaint also maintains that Google was also able to collect student information by tracking students in their Google for Education accounts, and that this information could be shared with third parties using administrative settings. “We commend schools for bringing technology into the classroom. Google doesn’t first obtain permission from students or their parents and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, many parents are unable to prevent Google’s data collection.

The EFF has also alleged that the software’s administrative settings, which can control several Chromebooks at once, allows an administrator to choose a setting that sends students’ information to Google and other websites, which violates the Privacy Pledge, the group says. In 2012, Google paid a $22.5 million fine after the FTC concluded the company had created a technological loophole that enabled its digital advertising network to shadow the online activities of people using Apple’s Safari browser without their consent.

Despite the outcry from the privacy watchdog, for schools that have invested heavily in the technology, perspectives on students’ privacy rights vary. Rochelle added: “Schools can control whether students or teachers can use additional Google consumer services — like YouTube, Maps, and Blogger — with their GAFE accounts.” Personal data is beyond important, as our entire lives are spread out over multiple services that operate online in one way or another.

Previously, the principal of a technology-focused school in the district said teachers aimed to increase students’ awareness of how their data was being used online, though she did not address the Google software specifically. “Talking with students even about their digital footprint, what they’re leaving out there on things they’re very familiar with has been eye-opening for our kids,” Lisa Gilbert-Smith, principal of Dearborn STEM Academy, a public school in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood that has made computer science courses a focus, said in an interview last month. “Just making sure they can utilize technology in an appropriate manner, and that they actually know what it is, and why it is, and where it came from, those are things that [our teachers] are working on.” At schools in the suburban district of Burlington, Mass., which also use the Google software, officials say students are not entitled to privacy rights for devices provided by the school. The EFF argued that aggregating and anonymizing students’ browsing history does not change the private nature of the data or the fact that it is associated with identifiable student accounts at the time it is collected.

The group’s complaint also comes amid a debate over whether to include privacy protections in an upcoming rewrite of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act standards, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. “I think it does lead — whether it’s companies or schools — down a path of [asking] ‘How much are we collecting? More from WSJ.D: And make sure to visit WSJ.D for all of our news, personal tech coverage, analysis and more, and add our XML feed to your favorite reader.

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