Google is tracking students as it sells more products to schools, privacy advocates warn
In public classrooms across the country, the corporate name that is fast becoming as common as pencils and erasers is Google.
More than half of K-12 laptops or tablets purchased by U.S. schools in the third quarter were Chromebooks, cheap laptops that run Google software. Beyond its famed Web search, the company freely offers word processing and other software to schools. In total, Google programs are used by more than 50 million students and teachers around the world, the company says.
But Google is also tracking what those students are doing on its services and using some of that information to sell targeted ads, according to a complaint filed with federal officials by a leading privacy advocacy group.
And because of the arrangement between Google and many public schools, parents often can’t keep the company from collecting their children’s data, privacy experts say.
“In some of the schools we’ve talked to parents about, there’s literally no ability to say, ‘no,’” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Google, whose parent company is called Alphabet, pushed back against the criticism, saying its education apps comply with the law. But it acknowledged it collects data about some student activities to improve its products.
"We have always been firmly committed to keeping student information private and secure," Jonathan Rochelle, director of Google Apps for Education, wrote in a blog post defending its practices. Google declined to comment further.
But privacy advocates warn that many school administrators may not realize just how much information Google is collecting or how it may be used beyond providing educational services. And for some parents, the arrangement is concerning.
Jeff, who spoke on the condition that his last name not be published to protect his family’s privacy, lives in a Roseville, Calif. school district that requires students to use Google’s education products. He said he has struggled to keep his 4th grade daughter out of Google’s system.........
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