Privacy Advocate Group Accuses Google of Spying via Chromebook

Google accused by EFF for Collecting Students Data via Chromebook.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, has lodged a complaint at the United States Federal Trade Commission/FTC accusing Google of storing students’ data without their permission.

EFF claims that Google’s Chromebook invades students’ privacy through its default “sync” feature on the Google Chrome browser.

The browser is sold to schools and as per the claim of EFF, Google easily monitors and collects data of internet searches, passwords and emails and websites or videos viewed by the students.

This monitoring occurs at all levels from kindergarten to the 12th grade.

As per the EFF claim, the kids cannot alter the Chromebook privacy settings because only the school administration can do that. Additionally, EFF states that Google has been breaching its Student Privacy Pledge that was signed in 2014.

The pledge is legally enforceable as per the regulations of the FTC Act.

In its complaint, the EFF stated that:

1: “Google is violating the Student Privacy Pledge in three ways. First, when students are logged into their Google for Education accounts, student personal information in the form of data about their use of non-educational Google services is collected, maintained, and used by Google for its own benefit, unrelated to authorized educational or school purposes.”

2: “Second, the ‘Chrome Sync’ feature of Google’s Chrome browser is turned on by default on all Google Chromebook laptops — including those sold to schools as part of Google for Education — thereby enabling Google to collect and use students’ entire browsing history and other data for its own benefit, unrelated to authorized educational or school purposes.

3: “And third, 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.”

EFF states that the information was revealed to its team during the Spying on Students campaign, which aims at looking into privacy risks affiliated with school-supplied software and devices.

This campaign was launched on Tuesday.

According to Nate Cardozo, the EFF staff attorney, “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.”

“Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit center. If Google wants to use students’ data to ‘improve Google products’, then it needs to get express consent from parents.” 

Here’s a tweet from EFF staff attorney:

Google’s response:

The search engine giant has replied to the complaint launched by the EFF, according to which: 

“Students’ personal data in these Core Services is only used to provide the services themselves, so students can do things like communicate using email and collaborate on assignments using Google Docs. There are no ads in these Core Services, and student data in these services is not used for advertising purposes.” 

Google maintains that its tools are in complete compliance with the law and it provides schools with Chromebooks and other cloud-based productivity tools like the Google Apps for Education/GAFE.

Google assured that ads do not appear on the apps in the version of Chromebook that is given to students.

If you are using Chromebook follow this guide and secure yourself.

This is not the first time when Google has been accused of spying on people. In the past, a researcher revealed that Google might be spying on all of its Chromium web browser users by stealth downloading audio listeners onto their computer, and transmitting all the audio from computer’s microphone back to the Google servers.

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