Sen. Franken asks Google to address concerns about Chromebooks, Google Apps collecting student data

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U.S. Senator Al Franken has sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, asking his company to describe what it's doing with the private data of students who use Chromebooks and/or Google Apps for Education.




The letter addresses concerns that Google may be collecting data about students for non-educational purposes without gaining consent from parents. The company has been asked to respond by Feb. 12.

Franken is the chief Democrat in the U.S. Senate's Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee, and regularly sends such letters to tech companies whenver a serious legal issue comes in front of the public eye.

In this case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing Google of violating its commitment to the Student Privacy Pledge, which asks that companies not collect, use, or share student data except when it's needed for educational purposes, or if parents consent.

While Google doesn't use the data for targeted ads within its own sites, the version of Chrome on Chromebooks is still set to sync by default, giving the company access to browser history, search requests, and more. Google has promised to disable sync with other Google services for educational Chromebooks, but the EFF claims this doesn't go far enough, and that the adminstrative settings Google provides to schools still share data with third-party websites. Google has denied any wrongdoing.

"We have responded to the EFF in detail and we're very happy to provide Senator Franken with more information," the company said in a statement to Re/code on Wednesday.

Chromebooks are proving serious competition for Apple in the educational market, undermining Apple's attempt to sell the iPad thanks to the lure of lower prices, keyboards, and easier administration. Worries about privacy could potentially draw some schools back to Apple, which is usually stricter about what data it collects and how it uses it.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    Good timing on the scaling back of the already small iAd effort. 
  • Reply 2 of 39
    The fallout from Pearson's shadiness continues. 


    If it wasn't for their racketeering and Apple's naive belief in their prudence (and other nonsense) every school would have gone with iPads and developers would have been competing over how best to assist in education with apps and games.


  • Reply 3 of 39
    irelandireland Posts: 17,798member
    At least Franken asks for these things.
    latifbpredgeminipa
  • Reply 4 of 39
    Google's core business is advertising... what did they expect?
    latifbpjahbladelkruppsockrolidchiaredgeminipa
  • Reply 5 of 39
    This "Student Privacy Pledge" isn't legally binding, is it? I seriously doubt it. How can this organization go crying to the government to  enforce a nonbinding agreement?
  • Reply 6 of 39
    This "Student Privacy Pledge" isn't legally binding, is it? I seriously doubt it. How can this organization go crying to the government to  enforce a nonbinding agreement?
    Because everyone goes crying to Daddy Government these days. 
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 39
    I would like our Senators to focus on more important topics like how we revamp our education system to work for todays world. We spend too much time nitpicking issues rather than solve the reasons education is falling behind. Might not be an issue in big cities but smaller communities are struggling to keep up. I think consolidation needs to happen in some cases. What is actually taught needs to change as well. Can anyone take care of this for me? :D
  • Reply 8 of 39
    Gee, this sounds familiar.

    This is why I (as I posted about previously) got our school to completely revamp how they use Google accounts for students.

    To make a long story short - now students are assigned a random Google account ID each year. These account ID's get reused. This makes it difficult for Google to build a profile since different students keep using the same ID's over and over.

    Prior to this their Google ID was literally their real name along with a student number (students were allowed to pick their ID as long as their number was included). I still don't know who the idiot was at their school who thought this was a good idea (nobody wants to fess up).
    bobschlobDeeedsmacky the mackymontrosemacsSpamSandwichredgeminipa
  • Reply 9 of 39
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,350member
    This "Student Privacy Pledge" isn't legally binding, is it? I seriously doubt it. How can this organization go crying to the government to  enforce a nonbinding agreement?
    I would HOPE it's legally binding, but not entirely certain where the law stands on it. Not that it would matter in this case as the Student Privacy Pledge group itself came out and said Google is absolutely following it's commitment and the EFF is off-base on this one.
    https://fpf.org/2015/12/01/future-of-privacy-forum-statement-regarding-electronic-frontier-foundation-student-privacy-complaint/
    edited January 2016 singularity
  • Reply 10 of 39
    To The Esteemed Senator Al Franken,

    Don't worry about it. Google's not evil.


    Yours Truly,
    (signed)
    Sundar Pichai
    Chief Executive Officer, Google
    jahbladeDeeedssockrolidjony0montrosemacsredgeminipa
  • Reply 11 of 39
    Business development, it's Google. The old adage, If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.
    latifbpDeeedssockrolid
  • Reply 12 of 39
    latifbplatifbp Posts: 544member
    gatorguy said:
    This "Student Privacy Pledge" isn't legally binding, is it? I seriously doubt it. How can this organization go crying to the government to  enforce a nonbinding agreement?
    I would HOPE it's legally binding, but not entirely certain where the law stands on it. Not that it would matter in this case as the Student Privacy Pledge group itself came out and said Google is absolutely following it's commitment and the EFF is off-base on this one.
    https://fpf.org/2015/12/01/future-of-privacy-forum-statement-regarding-electronic-frontier-foundation-student-privacy-complaint/
    These a--holes can say that, but my son was using his Google account to login to YouTube and started getting marketed YouTube videos with nudity so, um, I think they've got some problems on their hands.
    sockrolidchia
  • Reply 13 of 39
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    I don’t know how they get away with it but most people think Google is a technology company. When you point out to people that Google’s core business, the business they make most of their money from, is advertising they are dumbfounded. 
    Deeedssockrolidjony0
  • Reply 14 of 39
    lkrupp said:
    I don’t know how they get away with it but most people think Google is a technology company. When you point out to people that Google’s core business, the business they make most of their money from, is advertising they are dumbfounded. 
    It gets money from advertising, yes. But it's core business is far creepier than that. It started as a search company, monitoring the content of all websites. And extended this to monitoring everything electronic it can get its hands on.

    At some point they realised monetisation of that information was important to growth to do more monitoring.

    Advertising was the lowest hanging fruit.


    sockrolidjony0
  • Reply 15 of 39
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,350member
    latifbp said:
    gatorguy said:
    This "Student Privacy Pledge" isn't legally binding, is it? I seriously doubt it. How can this organization go crying to the government to  enforce a nonbinding agreement?
    I would HOPE it's legally binding, but not entirely certain where the law stands on it. Not that it would matter in this case as the Student Privacy Pledge group itself came out and said Google is absolutely following it's commitment and the EFF is off-base on this one.
    https://fpf.org/2015/12/01/future-of-privacy-forum-statement-regarding-electronic-frontier-foundation-student-privacy-complaint/
    These a--holes can say that, but my son was using his Google account to login to YouTube and started getting marketed YouTube videos with nudity so, um, I think they've got some problems on their hands.
    Impossible it had anythiong to do with Google since don't even allow advertising that includes nudity, references to sexuality or sexual persuasion, religion, medical issues or any other highly personal subjects. Advertisers are also precluded from collecting any of that information themselves via any Google services. So I call FUD good sir.  If your son was getting "porn" suggestions I suggest it was due to something other than Google marketing. 
    edited January 2016 singularity1STnTENDERBITS
  • Reply 16 of 39
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,893member
    Google is a company whose moral compass has been seriously distorted by the lure of money.  Google and Facebook.  A pox on both your houses.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,893member
    I would like our Senators to focus on more important topics like how we revamp our education system to work for todays world. We spend too much time nitpicking issues rather than solve the reasons education is falling behind. Might not be an issue in big cities but smaller communities are struggling to keep up. I think consolidation needs to happen in some cases. What is actually taught needs to change as well. Can anyone take care of this for me? :D
    Ok, it's not as if this occupies most of his time.  Aren't you glad that at least one senator cares enough to ask what the hell for are these companies are gathering so much information on kids?
    latifbp
  • Reply 18 of 39
    gatorguy said:
    latifbp said:
    These a--holes can say that, but my son was using his Google account to login to YouTube and started getting marketed YouTube videos with nudity so, um, I think they've got some problems on their hands.
    Impossible it had anythiong to do with Google since don't even allow advertising that includes nudity, references to sexuality or sexual persuasion, religion, medical issues or any other highly personal subjects. Advertisers are also precluded from collecting any of that information themselves via any Google services. So I call FUD good sir.  If your son was getting "porn" suggestions I suggest it was due to something other than Google marketing. 
    maybe he needs to have a nice long talk about what he has been "looking at"

  • Reply 19 of 39
    latifbp said:
    gatorguy said:
    I would HOPE it's legally binding, but not entirely certain where the law stands on it. Not that it would matter in this case as the Student Privacy Pledge group itself came out and said Google is absolutely following it's commitment and the EFF is off-base on this one.
    https://fpf.org/2015/12/01/future-of-privacy-forum-statement-regarding-electronic-frontier-foundation-student-privacy-complaint/
    These a--holes can say that, but my son was using his Google account to login to YouTube and started getting marketed YouTube videos with nudity so, um, I think they've got some problems on their hands.
    Oooookay.  Here's a pro tip:  Making up stuff just to push a narrative.  Yeah, not really effective.  People know you're lying.  Even those who hate Google know your anecdote is fabricated.  Try harder.
    singularity
  • Reply 20 of 39
    tundraboy said:
    I would like our Senators to focus on more important topics like how we revamp our education system to work for todays world. We spend too much time nitpicking issues rather than solve the reasons education is falling behind. Might not be an issue in big cities but smaller communities are struggling to keep up. I think consolidation needs to happen in some cases. What is actually taught needs to change as well. Can anyone take care of this for me? :D
    Ok, it's not as if this occupies most of his time.  Aren't you glad that at least one senator cares enough to ask what the hell for are these companies are gathering so much information on kids?
    I'd rather that one senator actually had one of his people do some basic research before kneejerking when the one of the sponsors of the SPP said the EFF was wrong in it's assertions.  Wasting time in the name of "What about the children" is still wasting time.
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