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Google is under a microscope due to how it uses the personal data of millions of students.

According to the Washington Post, the internet giant responded to a congressional inquiry in a seven-page letter to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

Google denied using K-12 students’ personal information (collected by way of their educational software) for targeted ads. But it does collect information for certain purposes, such as developing and improving Google products, the Post reports.

Google also stated that it neither sells student information to third parties, nor shares the data collected from its educational products. The company noted, however, that it releases personal information when legally required.

Millions of students and teachers use the company’s education apps, which are freely provided to schools. Users can leave the education software and explore other online sites – that’s where things get murky.

The Post explains that tracking occurs when students log on to their Google Apps for Education account and then search sites, such as YouTube, Maps, and Blogger.

Franken said in a statement, via the Washington Post:

“Google’s response to my questioning was thorough, and I appreciate its engagement on this topic. But I’m still concerned about what exactly Google does with the information it collects and processes from students who are browsing outside websites—like YouTube—while logged in to Google’s education services. I’m also still interested in whether or not Google can provide parents and students with stronger privacy protections—for example, by allowing students to ‘opt-in’ to data collection. I plan to continue working with Google to clarify some of its policies, because it’s important for the privacy of our students.”

Back in 2015, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that accused Google of deceptively tracking student’s online activities.

Nate Cardozo, a lawyer with the privacy group, told the paper that he believes Google is tracking which sites students visit outside of its core educational software – without parental knowledge or consent. He said that would constitute a violation a privacy rule that the company signed.

SOURCE: Washington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

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