Google will stop scanning the emails of students using their services at schools across the globe, after the tech giant permanently disabled ads in its Apps for Education product. The ads were already disabled by default in a Google service offering the company’s cloud computing applications to schools and universities for free. However, the administrators could turn them on. Now this option has also been removed, and ads are always off.
The changes follow Google’s involvement in a lawsuit in California which accused the company of breaching a US legislation known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The law governs access to student educational records, and the tech giant allegedly breached it with automated scanning of emails to display ads.
The social media lawyers point out that while this is a good first step to protect student privacy, it is unclear why it took Google years to make this change. Perhaps, without multiple lawsuits Google wouldn’t have changed its practices at all. They wonder whether the company will also turn off its scanning and behavioral advertising functions for its other services like YouTube in a school setting. They also wonder whether Google will change its Android and Chromebook policies to better protect student privacy and revise its school contracts to reflect this announcement.
Google had claimed earlier that the automated scanning of emails didn’t just provide mere advertising, and this is why the company continued to do it even for accounts where ads were disabled. Google claimed that scanning also provided spell check, virus and spam protection, and the “priority inbox” feature. The tech giant also claimed that the scanning couldn’t be permanently turned off.
Google pointed out that today over 30 million students, teachers and administrators globally rely on its Apps for Education. Of course, earning and keeping their trust drives Google’s business forward, and the company understands that trust is earned via protecting their privacy and providing the best security measures.
In the meantime, the move also followed an aggressive campaign from Microsoft’s search engine Bing, promoting its own ad-free product for students’ use. The latter allows students to search the web in an ad-free environment, though the product is only available in the United States.
Thanks To ET!