Google has been caught in the past playing fast and loose with regulations but that doesn’t stop the company from taking advantages of the law. In 2019, YouTube paid around $200m for breaking children’s privacy laws. In December, Google was sued by Genius for copyright infringement.
Now, the AG of New Mexico has sued Google over the collection of children’s data. The lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque claims that Google is using education services that are marketed for teachers and students to spy on children and their families. AG Hector Balderas said Google markets Google Education as a resource for children who don’t have access to education or are in resource-deprived schools. However, behind that blanket, Google uses the service to track children in schools and at home and record their browsing activities.
Student safety should be the number one priority of any company providing services to our children, particularly in schools. Tracking student data without parental consent is not only illegal, it is dangerous.
– AG Hector Balderas
Google has dismissed the lawsuit saying it’s “factually wrong” and it claimed that the school has complete control over the privacy of the students.
We do not use personal information from users in primary and secondary schools to target ads. School districts can decide how best to use Google for education in their classrooms and we are committed to partnering with them.
Unfortunately, the US doesn’t have a national privacy law which gives Google the benefit of doubt. That said, New Mexico does have a bunch of privacy laws and the AG claims that Google is in violation of the state’s Unfair Practices Act and the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
The lawsuit notes that Google doesn’t allow children under 13 to create their own Google accounts which keep them safe from being tracked online. The state, however, claims that Google is trying to get around its own policies using Google Education to “secretly gain access to troves of information”. The Google Education plan does allow children below 13 to have their own Google accounts but those accounts are monitored by the administrator which is usually the IT department of the said school.
AG Hector Balderas has sent a letter to over 80 million teachers who are using Google Education assuring them that they can continue using the platform. He noted that there is no immediate harm to the teachers or students so they can continue using the service while the investigation is in progress.