Google Under Fire For Scanning Student E-mails

Internet giant, Google, has come under fire in a lawsuit filed by students in the San Jose federal court, alleging that their data had been collected for use in advertising purposes, according to Security Week.

SafeGov reported on the claims that Google was targeting student users with advertising, even when ads weren’t set to be shown in schools back in 2014. They point out the key difference between Microsoft and Google: both offer their suites to schools, no doubt in the hope that users continue to be attached to those suites when they move into the workplace, however Google also is primarily an advertising business.

If the firms offer essentially the same suites to schools for free, it is surely in part because they hope that when students move into the workplace they will demand the same online tools they learned to use in school. This is a business model that is honest about its intentions and serves the interests of both students and the firms. However, there is an additional component in the Google business model that involves advertising, and this is where the trouble begins.

Worryingly for students, Google told Education Week that not only are the systems provided scanned, but that it’s an automated process, that the search giant currently is unable to disable, even for students who are not receiving ads.

Currently only nine students are part of the action, and the judge has denied the request to make it into a class action suit on the basis that it would be impossible to determine who had and hadn’t consented to the data collection by Google, however also resisted a motion to have the case thrown out.

Educators are mixed on their feelings with some of the view that the excellent cloud services provided by Google, at no cost, are of sufficiently high quality as to outweigh the small privacy risks, others feel that it’s important for student privacy to be protected in full. It’s really a similar trade-off that many adults make when deciding on their operating system, mobile phone, and which apps to download and use.

[Image Source: Google press room]

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Author: Garrett Graff

Garrett is a qualified engineer, and when he's not helping businesses grow as a consultant at Palladous, you can find him building hobby race cars, managing the family farming business or chilling out on the lake fishing. Get in touch on Google+ or drop him a line by e-mail.

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