Google has been accused of collecting the personal data of schoolchildren by The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
EFF, the non-profit organisation which defends civil liberties on the internet, has filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission against Google for collecting and data mining school children’s personal information, including their internet searches.
The EFF claims it uncovered the practice while researching its ‘Spying on Students’ campaign which was created to raise awareness about the privacy risks of school-supplied electronic devices and software.
It said that by tracking children, Google is violating promises it has made and trade rules. The search giant has previously signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document that obliges companies to refrain from collecting, using, or sharing students’ personal information except when needed for legitimate educational purposes or if parents provide permission.
“Despite publicly promising not to, Google mines students’ browsing data and other information and uses it for the company’s own purposes. Making such promises and failing to live up to them is a violation of FTC rules against unfair and deceptive business practices,” said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo.
“Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit centre. If Google wants to use students’ data to ‘improve Google products,’ then it needs to get express consent from parents.”
The group said that while Google does not use data acquired from students for targeted advertising, it found that Google’s ‘Sync’ feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools.
The feature allows Google to track, store on its servers and data mine for non-advertising purposes the records of every internet site 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 EFF alleges that because Google does not obtain permission from students or their parents, and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, parents are unable to prevent the data collection.