Google sued by New Mexico attorney general for collecting student data through its Education Platform

Pierluigi Paganini February 23, 2020

New Mexico sues Google for allegedly using the Google for Education platform to gather personal and private data from children.

Google is facing a new lawsuit for allegedly using the Google for Education platform to gather personal and private data from students with an age of less than 13 years.

The lawsuit was filed by the state of New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas last week, alleging the tech giant violates the privacy of the young students.

The company offers free Chromebooks to schools and access to the G-Suite for Education service as part of the Google for Education platform.

“Student safety should be the number one priority of any company providing services to our children, particularly in schools,” wrote Balderas. “Tracking student data without parental consent is not only illegal, it is dangerous; and my office will hold any company accountable who compromises the safety of New Mexican children.”

This service gives students access to several Google services, including Gmail, Classroom, online office document processing, it implements a complete platform to do schoolwork and communicate with teachers.

Balderas is accusing the IT giant of violating the Children’S Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by profiling young users through the collection of sensitive information like physical locations, web and search histories, YouTube viewing habits, contact lists, passwords, and voice recordings.

“Outside of its Google Education platform, Google forbids children under the age of 13 in the United States from having their own Google accounts. But Google attempts to get around this by using Google Education to secretly gain access to troves of information about New Mexican children that it would not otherwise have,” continues the lawsuit.

Balderas pointed out that Google’s conduct is contradictory while it aims at protecting the student’s privacy, it continues to “spy” on them.

“These practices do not simply violate federal law, nor do they merely impact children under the age of 13,” continues the complaint. “Covertly monitoring children of all ages, despite unambiguous representations to the contrary, violates longstanding rights rooted in the common law as well as New Mexico’s statutory prohibitions on unfair, deceptive, and unconscionable business practice.”

Google is refusing any accusation, it highlighted that the schools must obtain the consent of parents before joining to the platform. The company also pointed out that children’s personal information is not used for advertising purposes.

The New Mexico Attorney General is asking for $5,000 per violation of New Mexico’s Unfair Practices Act (UPA), fees, state damages.

“These claims are factually wrong. G Suite for Education allows schools to control account access and requires that schools obtain parental consent when necessary.” Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda told The Verge: “We do not use personal information from users in primary and secondary schools to target ads. School districts can decide how best to use Google for Education in their classrooms and we are committed to partnering with them.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Google, privacy)

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