Education

How Google Co-opts Our Schools to Collect Kids’ Data

Google office in Shanghai, China, September 17, 2018. (Aly Song/Reuters)
Local school administrators have sold out vulnerable children to Silicon Valley.

No consent. No disclosure. No escape.

For legions of unwitting students and teachers across the country, this is the dangerous, de facto data policy Google has imposed over their school districts. An estimated 80 million students and teachers are now signed up for free “G Suite for Education” accounts (formerly known as Google Apps for Education); more than 25 million students and teachers now use Google Chromebooks. A Google logon is the key to accessing homework, quizzes, tests, group discussions, presentations, spreadsheets, and other “seamless communication.” Without it, students and teachers are locked out of their own virtual classrooms.

Local administrators, dazzled by “digital learning initiatives” and shiny tech toys, have sold out vulnerable children to Silicon Valley. Educators and parents who expose and oppose this alarmingly intrusive regime are mocked and marginalized. And Beltway politicians, who are holding Senate hearings this week on Big Tech’s consumer privacy breaches, remain clueless or complicit in the wholesale hijacking of school-age kids’ personally identifiable information for endless data mining and future profit.

Over the past several years, I’ve reported in my column and on my CRTV.com investigative program on EduTech plundering the personal data and browsing habits of millions of American schoolchildren. Remember: State and federal educational databases provide countless opportunities for private companies exploiting public-school children subjected to annual assessments, which exploded after the adoption of the tech industry–supported Common Core “standards,” tests and aligned texts and curricula. The Every Student Succeeds Act further enshrined government collection of personally identifiable information — including data collected on attitudes, values, beliefs, and dispositions — and allows release of the data to third-party contractors thanks to Obama-era loopholes carved into the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

The racket includes Facebook’s Digital Promise partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the social/emotional-behavior tracking system of TS Gold (Teaching Strategies Gold) targeting preschoolers. Yes, preschoolers. The Big Business–driven Project Unicorn promotes “data interoperability” between and among a cornucopia of EduTech products vying for your kid’s clicks and data. And despite getting caught data-mining students’ emails without consent, Google continues to infiltrate classrooms and family rooms.

Parents, did you get notice before your child signed on to a Google account? In many districts, school information officers usurp your family authority and are logging on your sons and daughters en masse without your consent or knowledge. You don’t get to see the terms of service, the privacy policy, or the G Suite agreement between Google and your school. Even if parents do receive notice before their kids are dragooned into G World, opt-out mechanisms are nonexistent or nearly impossible to navigate.

Springfield, Mo., public-schools employee and parent Brooke Henderson, along with her sister, Brette Hay (who is also a mom and educator), were horrified to discover that even if they logged out of their G Suite accounts, their personal passwords, bank-account information, parents’ personal data, spouses’ sensitive data, and children’s browsing habits were being stored on district-issued Google Drive accounts. Unbeknownst to the sisters, Google’s auto-login and auto-sync functions allow the collection and archiving of non-education-related information across the extended family’s devices.

Henderson showed me screenshots and videos of these breaches, including storage of her young niece’s personal voice-to-text searches and memos and her nephew’s YouTube viewing records. Even worse, such information is accessible to unknown numbers of district employees. The security concerns are multiplied and exacerbated by other third-party data-management systems used by Henderson’s district that “play well” with Google, such as Instructure’s program Canvas and single sign-on program Clever.

As parent-privacy advocate and researcher Cheri Kiesecker asserts, “parents don’t want to just see businesses’ policies after they get our kids’ data. We want to have consent whether they get the data, and students should not be penalized if parents choose not to share data. There also should be an enforceable penalty if data is misused.”

Message to Congress: Allowing Google to dictate “frameworks” for education information grabs is like letting the fox guard the henhouse. Parents have a right to know — and the right to “NO” — when it comes to protecting their children’s privacy. Anything less is capitulation to kiddie data predators.

This column is Part 1 of a new series on “The EduTech Data Heist.”

© 2018 creators.com

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

The March for Life Is a March for Truth

Pro-lifers are marching today, as they do every year, to commemorate a great evil that was done in January 1973 and to express solidarity with its innocent victims. The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade eliminated legal protections for unborn children in all 50 states, and did so without any ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The March for Life Is a March for Truth

Pro-lifers are marching today, as they do every year, to commemorate a great evil that was done in January 1973 and to express solidarity with its innocent victims. The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade eliminated legal protections for unborn children in all 50 states, and did so without any ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More

A Nation of Barbers

It seems almost inevitable that long hair is unwelcome at Barbers Hill High School. There’s a touch of aptronymic poetry in Texas public-school dress-code disputes. When I was in school in the 1980s, at the height of the Satanism panic, the local school-district superintendent circulated a list of ... Read More

A Nation of Barbers

It seems almost inevitable that long hair is unwelcome at Barbers Hill High School. There’s a touch of aptronymic poetry in Texas public-school dress-code disputes. When I was in school in the 1980s, at the height of the Satanism panic, the local school-district superintendent circulated a list of ... Read More
U.S.

Nadler’s Folly

Jerry Nadler must have missed the day in law school where they teach you about persuasion. The House Democrat made a critical error early in the trial of President Trump. He didn’t just say that Republican senators, who voted to begin the proceedings without calling witnesses, were part of a cover-up. He said ... Read More
U.S.

Nadler’s Folly

Jerry Nadler must have missed the day in law school where they teach you about persuasion. The House Democrat made a critical error early in the trial of President Trump. He didn’t just say that Republican senators, who voted to begin the proceedings without calling witnesses, were part of a cover-up. He said ... Read More