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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Google Stops Collecting Data of Schoolchildren for Advertisers

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 10:08 AM

click to enlarge Spying on an unknowing student. - COLLEGEDEGREES360
  • CollegeDegrees360
  • Spying on an unknowing student.

Google is apparently trying to make good on its "Don't Be Evil" credo.

Or, at the very least, it's following a court order to end an undeniably evil practice.

Up until quite recently, the Mountain View search giant was freely vacuuming data from the 30 million teachers, students, and school administrators who used its free Google Apps for Education service, which provides Gmail accounts, document templates, calendars, and cloud storage. Google would hoard al that personal information, potentially for ads that might appear during a student's other online searches.

The suit accused Google of violating California wiretap laws, and suggested that the company's seemingly benign education app was actually an ad driver -- among other things.

In a blog post published Tuesday, Bram Bout, director of Google Education, said the company had permanently removed an "enable/disable" toggle in the Google Apps for Education administrator console, which meant that Google engineers no longer have the ability to turn these ads on or off. He also said Google had stopped scanning student data through the education app.

The announcement came right on the heels of a similar privacy twist last week, also involving a tech-bolstered education service. InBloom, a non-profit service that stored student data, announced it would shutter amid concerns that it was also stockpiling users' information in order to enrich itself.

InBloom was partly bankrolled by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

While these developments augur hope for privacy advocates, there's no guarantee that Google and Microsoft won't find some other mercenary use in education software. As the Wall Street Journal and others have pointed out, it still represents a highly cutthroat $8 billion market in the US.


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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Bio:
Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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