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Google stores children’s ‘entire browsing history’ – FTC complaint

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Google is wrongfully collecting the personal data of students, according to new claims against the search engine giant.

A civil liberties organisation has lodged an official complaint against Google with the US Federal Trade Commission over the alleged acquisition of schoolchildren’s personal data.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s complaint, Google has stored data without seeking parental permission.

Google, however, says all of its tools comply with the law, as reported by the BBC.

The EFF cites a number of potential issues with Google’s practices, specifically relating to the Google for Education program.

The scheme sees Google providing schools with Chromebooks and a suite of cloud-based apps.

According to the EFF student personal information is “collected, maintained, and used by Google for its own benefit, unrelated to authorised educational or school purposes”

The EFF also argues that the ‘Chrome Sync’ feature on Google’s browser is turned on by default. As such, Chromebooks sold to schools as part of the GfE program allow Google “to collect and use students’ entire browsing history and other data for its own benefit, unrelated to authorised educational or school purposes”.

The complaint also targets Google for Education’s Administrative settings, stating:

“Google For Education’s Administrative settings, which enable a school administrator to control settings for all program Chromebooks, allow administrators to choose settings that share student personal information with Google and third-party websites in violation of the Student Privacy Pledge.”

According to a BBC report, a Google spokesperson said: “Our services enable students everywhere to learn and keep their information private and secure.”

She continued: “While we appreciate EFF’s focus on student privacy, we are confident that these tools comply with both the law and our promises, including the Student Privacy Pledge.”

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As a result of these alleged indiscretions, the EEF has requested that the FTC investigates Google’s “unfair or deceptive acts”.

If Google is found to be committing said acts, the EEF also requests that the FTC seeks a permanent injunction against any practices that violate the laws of the Commission.

The EEF also wants the FTC to order Google to destroy all personal student information held that is “not necessary for educational purposes”.

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