EFF Attacks Google over Students' Online Privacy in ChromebooksEFF Attacks Google over Students' Online Privacy in Chromebooks
Google has entered the cross-hairs of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which says the search giant is violating students' privacy rights by collecting data about them without permission on Chromebooks used in classrooms.
December 3, 2015
Google has entered the cross-hairs of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which says the search giant is violating students’ privacy rights by collecting data about them without permission on Chromebooks used in classrooms.
The EFF, one of the most influential groups in the realm of online privacy and freedom, denounced Google’s data mining practices as “deceptive” in a press release published Dec. 1. According to the organization, Google enables the “Sync” feature of its Chrome browser by default, allowing it “to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords.”
The EFF added that Google does not request students’ permission before apparently collecting this data. In addition, it said, because Chromebook use is required in some schools, there is effectively no way for parents to opt out of what they may see as unacceptable violations of students’ privacy.
If you’re wondering why it’s news that Google — the company that probably knows more about most of us than any other corporation, since it can read our searches, emails, cloud files and more — is accessing students’ data, it’s because the company endorsed the Student Privacy Pledge. Through that agreement, Google promised not to share students’ personal data except in particular circumstances, according to the EFF.
Not everyone sees things the EFF’s way. The Future of Privacy Forum, which helped create the Student Privacy Pledge, said in a statement that it does not believe the EFF’s charges against Google are valid.
It seems quite unlikely that many schools will stop using Chromebooks based on the EFF’s report. Nonetheless, this news highlights the intersection between online privacy debates and the education market. It’s an issue that will only grow as Internet privacy increasingly becomes something that people at large, not just geeks, care about, and as schools and universities become ever more invested in technology, like Chromebooks, that raises privacy concerns.
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