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Google snoops on kids via Chromebooks, claims EFF in FTC filing

Think of the... oh never mind

Google has been collecting data from schoolchildren as young as seven years of age, according to a complaint filed with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), despite the Chocolate Factory's legally enforceable commitment to refrain from such activities.

The EFF, which launched its "Spying on Students" campaign today, filed its complaint after examining "Google's Chromebook and Google Apps for Education (GAFE), a suite of educational cloud-based software programs used in many schools across the country by students as young as seven years old".

Google, it added, had signed the Student Privacy Pledge, "a legally enforceable document whereby companies promise to refrain from collecting, using, or sharing students’ personal information, except when needed for legitimate educational purposes or if parents provide permission". The EFF claimed in its statement:

While Google does not use student data for targeted advertising within a subset of Google sites, the EFF found that Google’s “Sync” feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools.

This allows Google 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.

Google doesn’t first obtain permission from students or their parents and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, many parents are unable to prevent Google’s data collection.

“Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs,” EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo said.

The EFF reports that the Chocolate Factory said it will "soon disable a setting on school Chromebooks that allows Chrome Sync data, such as browsing history, to be shared with other Google services".

"While that is a small step in the right direction, it doesn’t go nearly far enough to correct the violations of the Student Privacy Pledge currently inherent in Chromebooks being distributed to schools," according to the EFF.

The Register has contacted Google with our own enquiries and we will update this article if and when we receive a response. ®

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