Two children from Illinois are suing Google for collecting biometric data on millions of students, including face scans, through the search giant’s classroom software tool,media CNET reported. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in a federal court in San Jose, California, seeking class-action status. The two children, identified only as H.K. and J.C., were sued through their father, Clinton Farwell.
The complaint says Google used its service to create face templates and “sound prints” for children through a program by the search giant to provide Chromebooks to school districts across the United States and to offer g Suite for Education apps free of charge. These apps include Gmail, Calendar, and the student version of Google Docs.
Data collection could violate Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which regulates facial recognition, fingerprinting and other biometrics in the state. The act requires websites to obtain parental consent when collecting personal information from users under the age of 13.
“Google has complete control over the data collection, use and retention practices of the G Suite for Education service, including through the use of biometric data and other personally identifiable information collected by the service, and uses this control not only to secretly and illegally monitor and illegally monitor children, but also to do so without the knowledge or consent of the children’s parents,” the lawsuit states. “
Google declined to comment. Bloomberg reported the lawsuit earlier. The suit seeks google’s “negligent” violation of BIPA’s rules, requiring class-action plaintiffs to pay $1,000 each, or “intentionally or recklessly” violating BIPA’s rules by paying $5,000 to each person.
The lawsuit highlights Google’s dominance in American classrooms, which has only grown in recent weeks. Schools are increasingly relying on the tech giant’s educational tools as physics classes across the United States are canceled in response to a new coronavirus outbreak.
Google’s use of tools has soared as several states have issued “in-place asylum” orders. Google Classroom, which helps teachers manage courses online, has surged to 50 million downloads, making it the number one educational app on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platform. On Thursday, Google announced a partnership with California Governor Gavin Newsom to donate 4,000 Chromebooks to students across the state.
The lawsuit is not the first time Google has drawn criticism for its products in the classroom. In February, New Mexico’s attorney general, Hector Balderas, sued Google, saying it violated the Protection of Intellectual Property Act through an education platform. The lawsuit accuses Google of collecting information about students’ locations, passwords, browsing history, content searched on Google and YouTube, contact lists and voice records.
Google also faces a broader crackdown on its handling of children’s data. Last September, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined The company a record $170 million for violating COPPA and made new demands. In response, the video site made major changes to the way it handles children’s videos, including limiting the amount of data it collects from those viewings.