February 17th, 2016

Google says it tracks personal student data, but not for advertising

By Emma Brown
Washington Post

Google does not use K-12 students’ personal information to serve targeted advertisements, the company says in the letter, which was signed by Sue Molinari, Google’s vice president for public policy and government relations.

But Google does track data from students for other reasons, including developing and improving Google products, the company wrote. Such tracking happens when students are signed into their Google Apps for Education account but are using certain Google services — such as Search, YouTube, Blogger and Maps — that are considered outside Google’s core educational offerings.

Franken asked Google to explain not only whether it is targeting ads to students now, but whether it has ever done so. The company answered that question obliquely, writing that while ads in its educational services have “always been off by default,” in 2014 the company took the “additional step” of removing administrators’ ability to turn on ads.

The “additional step” refers to a blog post that Google published in April 2014 after facing a lawsuit alleging that Google had illegally scanned student emails for commercial gain. The blog post said that the company had “permanently removed all ads scanning” in its email service for schools. Privacy advocates saw it as a tacit admission that the company had indeed been scanning student emails in order to target ads.

The lawsuit, which was framed as a class-action case on behalf of virtually all users of Google’s education apps, ended in 2014 after a federal judge declined to certify the class. The company is now facing similar allegations in a case filed last month by four students and alumni from the University of California-Berkeley.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/02/16/google-says-it-tracks-personal-student-data-but-not-for-advertising/


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