Last week the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a complaint with the FTC accusing Google of monitoring the online activity of students who use its Chrome browser.
According to the EFF, Chromebooks sold to schools through Google’s education program have had their “Sync” feature enabled, which has allowed Google to track, store, and data mine records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they watch, and their saved passwords. Additionally, Google doesn’t obtain permission from the students or their parents to handle the data, which directly violates a privacy agreement that Google signed in January.
Google has since acknowledged the issue and promised to disable the setting, and the EFF has asked the FTC to halt Google’s use of students’ personal information for its own purposes and to order the company to destroy all collected information that does not support educational purposes.
Similar student privacy and safety issues are increasingly becoming a cause for concern for parents and educators. With the widespread, sometimes mandatory, use of mobile devices in today’s classroom these issues can be hard to prevent, and will require more diligent monitoring from organizations like the EFF going forward.
While the complaint certainly makes Google look bad from a PR perspective, it’s unlikely to impact Chromebook sales as Google is already making changes to these polices. In fact, Futuresource Consulting recently announced that the Google Chromebook now accounts for over 50% of the devices in education technology (up from 1% in 2012), and it’s unlikely that Microsoft or Apple will gain enough traction to overtake them in 2016.