Google sued for collecting data on free laptops it gave to school children

New Mexico alleges Google tracked children's locations, web history, and YouTube videos they watched, among other things.

Feb 21, 2020, 9:02 am

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Andrew Wyrich 

Andrew Wyrich

New Mexico Sues Google School Childrens Privacy

Cory A Ulrich / Shutterstock.com (Licensed)

New Mexico’s Attorney General is suing Google, alleging that the tech giant illegally collected information on school children through its education suite products.

Hector Balderas, the state’s attorney general, said on Thursday the tech giant violated the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and New Mexico’s Unfair Practices Act by collecting information like children’s physical location, websites they visited, videos they watched on YouTube, voice recordings, and search terms they typed into Google’s search engine.

“School safety should be the number one priority of any company providing services to our children, particularly in schools,” Balderas said in a statement. “Tracking student data without parental consent is not only illegal, it is dangerous; and my office will hold any company accountable who compromises the safety of New Mexican children.”

Google offered its G Suite for Education products and Chromebook laptops to New Mexico school districts for free, Balderas said. The suit claims that up until 2014, Google used the information it gleaned “for advertising purposes.”

Last year the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it had reached a settlement with Google after it found that the tech giant allegedly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires websites to get parental consent before collecting information on children under the age of 13.

Earlier this year YouTube announced changes to its platform as a result of the settlement. The company said it will treat anyone watching videos aimed at children as if they were children, and limit its data collection and advertising on those videos.

Google, in a statement to the Associated Press, called the claims in New Mexico’s lawsuit “factually wrong.”

“We do not use personal information from users in primary and secondary schools to target ads,” spokesman Jose Castaneda told the news outlet. “School districts can decide how best to use Google for education in their classrooms and we are committed to partnering with them.”

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Last updated Feb 21, 2020, 9:08 am