As a data-rich company in constant need to grow its repository, Google is no doubt always in need for more sources of data to keep cash flowing into its trove. That is why it did not come as a surprise when Google admitted to collecting student data, though its denial of targeting ads to those same students is something to be taken with a grain of salt.
The collected pieces of information belong to students who are using a variety of Google services such as Google Maps, Earth and YouTube, as well as Chromebook computers. The search giant made the admission after Sen. Al Franken kicked off an investigation about claims that Google is using data pertaining to students for ad purposes.
The complaint was filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with the Federal Trade Commission on grounds that beyond educational purposes, Google is making use of this treasure trove of data for commercial goals without prior consent from the parents of the students.
The issue began when Google introduced the Google Apps for Education program to a number of schools in the United States as a way to help students expand their knowledge through a wide array of Web services offered by the Mountain View company.
In a rather apologetic press statement, Google has stood up to its commitment of protecting the personal data of students that use the Google Apps for Education software and Chromebook laptops that are now in wide distribution across plenty of schools.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation accused Google of violating its K-12 Student Privacy Pledge after finding out that the company is using the information it collects from students for non-educational programs. In fact, a Google official acknowledged the company’s practice of collecting such personal information as name and email address of students when they open Google services including Gmail, Calendar, Google Drive, and others. Google maintained that no ads are displayed on these tools.
But the question is: where then does Google apply the data it collects from the student users if not to advertising?
Part of the data collection process of Google is tracking the students’ browsing activity when they visit apps beyond Google’s offerings since these users remain logged in to Google Apps for Education. The goal is to monitor the devices and data submissions of the students. What better way to make use of this treasure trove for Google than to target ads?
It’s laudable enough that Google says it’s not using student data for targeted ads, but it begets suspicion on the other hand over where it puts this huge amount of data.