The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed an official complaint with the Federal Trade Commission accusing Google of collecting personal information about children.
Despite being a public signatory on the Student Privacy Pledge orchestrated by The Future of Privacy Forum and The Software & Information Industry Association, the EFF alleges that Google’s own “Google for Education” program has been distributing devices in which the “sync” option remains enabled.
The significance of this simple option is far bigger than its simple appearance might lead you to believe. The Sync function allows Google to track every site that students visit, every search term and their chosen results, their YouTube activity, and their saved passwords. This information can also be stored on Google’s servers and used for data-mining. According to the EFF:
Google’s practices fly in the face of commitments made when it signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document whereby companies promise to refrain from collecting, using, or sharing students’ personal information except when needed for legitimate educational purposes or if parents provide permission.
Google has enjoyed immense success with their Google for Education program, boasting that their Chromebooks are “the best selling device in U.S. K-12 schools.” And while they’ve told the EFF that they plan to disabled a setting that allows Chrome Sync data to be directly shared by other Google services, it’s a very small concession to a very big problem.
In the wake of the massive VTech leak of children’s information, consumers at large have rightly begun to pay more conscious attention to how their children are being exposed online. Where once protecting a child’s information could be accomplished by teaching them about “strangers” and closing the curtains to their bedrooms, this new age of global information requires parents to be more vigilant than ever before.
Nate Church is @Get2Church on Twitter.