Google Accused of Tracking Student Internet Activity

By

Low-cost notebooks have enjoyed a popular partnership with schools for some time. It should surprise no one that Google's Chromebooks are included in these partnerships. Both students and staff have integrated the low-cost systems into their daily activities for years. No harm, no foul, except that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has claimed the notebooks are secretly tracking information of students. The organization filed the complaint with the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last week.

 The accusations put Google in violation of their own promises under the Student Privacy Pledge and FTC rules against deceptive business practices. The Student Privacy Pledge is a legal document under which companies have committed to respect the privacy of students by not participating in the collection, sharing, or use of personal information.

The EFF examined Google’s Chromebook and Google Apps for Education (GAFE), which is a suite of educational cloud-based software programs used throughout the country by students. The complaint focuses on the Chrome Sync feature found on the notebooks, which is also present in the Chrome desktop browser. The foundation has taken issue with the behavior of the synchronization, which makes sure that users always have the same setup in their browser wherever they might log in. The settings are stored on Google's servers, which means they are susceptible to analysis by the company.

The EFF is calling the campaign 'Spying on Students', and they hope to raise awareness of the search giant's activities. The information that is collected includes bookmarks, surfing behavior, YouTube videos viewed, and other personal information. Students and parents aren't notified of this collection behavior, and that has raised attention since there is often no option but to use the provided systems for schoolwork. 

Google has responded by providing a setting where Chrome Sync can be disabled on the Chromebooks put out by the school. With this feature turned off, the sensitive and personal information will be unable to share data with Google’s other services and browsers. The upcoming setting switch may not assuage all the concerns in the complaint as there are also administrative settings that allow information to be shared with third-party websites. The EFF is requesting a full investigation into the actions that Google has taken, to cease the collection activities immediately, and an order to destroy all of the information the company collected that were not used for educational purposes. 




Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing Writer

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Coding and Invention Made Fun

By: Special Guest    10/12/2018

SAM is a series of kits that integrates hardware and software with the Internet. Combining wireless building blocks composed of sensors and actors con…

Read More

Facebook Marketplace Now Leverages AI

By: Paula Bernier    10/3/2018

Artificial intelligence is changing the way businesses interact with customers. Facebook's announcement this week is just another example of how this …

Read More

Oct. 17 Webinar to Address Apache Spark Benefits, Tools

By: Paula Bernier    10/2/2018

In the upcoming webinar "Apache Spark: The New Enterprise Backbone for ETL, Batch and Real-time Streaming," industry experts will offer details on clo…

Read More

It's Black and White: Cybercriminals Are Spending 10x More Than Enterprises to Control, Disrupt and Steal

By: Cynthia S. Artin    9/26/2018

In a stunning new report by Carbon Black, "Hacking, Escalating Attacks and The Role of Threat Hunting" the company revealed that 92% of UK companies s…

Read More

6 Challenges of 5G, and the 9 Pillars of Assurance Strategy

By: Special Guest    9/17/2018

To make 5G possible, everything will change. The 5G network will involve new antennas and chipsets, new architectures, new KPIs, new vendors, cloud di…

Read More