According to Google on Wednesday, it will stop scanning the Gmail accounts of students for advertising purposes beginning right this very moment. The practice was scrutinized recently in a court case, so it is easy to see why the company has chosen to go this route.
Google Apps for education is a free product that is currently used by over 30 million students and teachers. The product offers a Gmail email account for each student, document creation, cloud storage, as well as a calendar.
Bear in mind that Google did not place ads within Google Apps for students. However, the company did choose to scan contents for data, which could be used to show advertisements to students outside of Google Apps. Google claimed that it has never used the data to show ads anywhere, but one has to question that claim, since the company did scan students email accounts.
"We've permanently removed the 'enable/disable' toggle for ads in the Apps for Education Administrator console. This means ads in Apps for Education services are turned off and administrators no longer have the option or ability to turn ads in these services on," Google for Education director Bram Bout wrote in a blog post. "We've permanently removed all ads scanning in Gmail for Apps for Education, which means Google cannot collect or use student data in Apps for Education services for advertising purposes."
Last year, students and several Gmail users sued Google in California, claiming the company's scanning practices breached the wiretap law.
Google did admit that is scanned emails sent and received by students from schools who use Google Apps for education. Such activities by Google may have breached the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. However, Google insisted that its activities were in the line with the law.
One main reason Google has chosen to stop scanning Google Apps for students, could be due to the fact that Microsoft announced that Bing for schools would not show advertising to users. This means the platform would not scan user data.