A complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claimed that Google collects and data mines personal information of school kids.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, learned that Google has been collecting data as well as Internet search activities of school kids through its Google for Education program. The practice was revealed following the EFF's launch of its "Spying on Students" campaign.
The campaign is aimed at raising awareness on how electronic devices and software that are provided by the school can bring privacy risks. Part of the campaign involved the examining of Google's Chromebook devices and the educational cloud-based program known as Google Apps for Education.
The EFF claims that Google's practices are a clear violation of the Student Privacy Pledge. Signed in January by over 75 companies, the pledge is a legally binding document that vows to collect, store or use data of students solely for educational purposes.
"Despite publicly promising not to, Google mines students' browsing data and other information, and uses it for the company's own purposes," said Nate Cardozo, EFF Staff Attorney. "Making such promises and failing to live up to them is a violation of FTC rules against unfair and deceptive business practices."
According to the complaint, Google uses the sync feature of the Chrome Web browser in order to store bookmarks, passwords and history on browsing and search activities. It allegedly uses the information gathered for reasons that are beyond the scope of education.
In line with the complaint, the EFF wants the FTC to investigate Google's practice which it deems as unfair and deceptive under federal law. Other demands include forcing Google to destroy the student information that it has collected and to prevent the company from collecting further data.
As a response to the complaint, Google said that it will change the sync settings found on its Chromebooks, while also promising that the use of Google Apps for Education will not go beyond its original purpose.
"Our services enable students everywhere to learn and keep their information private and secure," said Google. "While we appreciate EFF's focus on student privacy, we are confident that these tools comply with both the law and our promises, including the Student Privacy Pledge."