Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is suing Google for allegedly violating student privacy. In his statement, Hood said that Google is breaking state consumer protection law by selling ads using data collected from Mississippi public school students who have Google’s G Suite For Education accounts.
In 2015, Google signed the K-12 School Service Provider Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy. By signing the pledge, Google promised, among other things, to “not collect, maintain, use or share student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student” and to “disclose clearly in contracts or privacy policies, including in a manner easy for parents to understand, what types of student personal information we collect, if any, and the purposes for which the information we maintain is used or shared with third parties.” The lawsuit alleges that Google fails to live up to its pledge and does not properly disclose the types of information it collects, maintains and uses, as well as whether and how that information is shared with third parties. Hood says a test involving a student account from the state-run Mississippi School of Math and Science in Columbus showed ads targeted to previous searches.
The suit was filed on behalf of the state and it seeks fines up to $10,000 for each of its student accounts in Mississippi. With half the state’s school districts using Google’s email, calendar and other online services, that amount could top $1 billion.