Google is facing a new lawsuit filed Thursday by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, alleging that the company violated students’ privacy rights, according tomedia outlet The Verge. These students use the free Chromebook available to schools through the company’s G Suite for Education platform.
“Student safety should be a top priority for any company that serves our children, especially in schools,” Balderas said. Tracking student data without parental consent is not only illegal, it’s also dangerous; my office will hold any company accountable for harming the safety of children in New Mexico. “
This is not the first time Balderas has sued Google. In 2018, Balderas took Google and other companies to court for arguing that they violated children’s privacy laws, particularly the far-reaching Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). According to court documents, the lawsuit is separate from the new one related to Chromebook and is still ongoing.
Balderas has also participated in a broader antitrust investigation into Google by 50 state attorneys general across the United States, while similar efforts were made by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.
The lawsuit filed Thursday specifically alleges that Google used its free Chromebook program as a Trojan horse to illegally collect student data, in violation of both COPPA and, more generally, the broader federal and state privacy laws for all children.
The lawsuit accuses Google of collecting data that includes sensitive information such as geographic location, internet and search history, YouTube viewing habits, contact lists, passwords and recordings. The lawsuit also alleges that Google used the information to serve its advertising business until April 2014, and that the company stored the data in personalized profiles for every student participating in its G Suite for Education program. It also accused Google of failing to properly disclose such data collection, nor of providing parents with access to and restrictions on how to collect data.
“These practices not only violate federal law, but also affect children under the age of 13,” the lawsuit reads. Despite the explicit statement to the contrary, monitoring children of all ages is a violation of the long-held long-standing rights of customary law and New Mexico’s statutory prohibition on unfair, deceptive and unethical business practices. “
Google was not immediately available for comment.