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Sen. Franken Releases Response from Google on Student Data Privacy Concerns

Senator Calls Response to His Questions Thorough; Will Ask Google for Clarification on How Exactly Student Data is Being Used, Whether Google Can Make Data Collection “Opt-In”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

After pressing Google last month to explain its student data privacy policies, today U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) released the company's response.

He called the response thorough, but said he plans to follow up with Google to further clarify questions about its student data practices—for example, what exactly Google is doing with the data it collects from students, and whether the company would give students and parents a meaningful choice about allowing Google to collect this data by making student data collection "opt-in."

You can read Sen. Franken's original letter to Google
here and the company's response here.

"I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, and that right includes the ability to control who is getting your personal data and how it's being used," said Sen. Franken. "That's why I asked Google to explain its student data collection practices.
Google has done great work in education technology, but I wanted to make sure the company is doing everything it can to protect the privacy of our students.

"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."

As schools rely more and more on education technology—commonly referred to as EdTech—in the classroom, many have raised serious concerns about the privacy and security of data collected from students. Sen. Franken pressed Google to explain its privacy policies after recent reports suggested that the company is collecting and using student data for non-educational purposes, without the knowledge or consent of school administrators, students, or parents. After receiving Google's response, Sen. Franken remains concerned about what Google does with the information it collects and processes from students who are accessing sites like YouTube, Google Search, and Google Maps while they are signed in to Google Apps for Education (GAFE).

Sen. Franken, top Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, has long been an advocate of protecting consumers' privacy, especially in light of new technologies. Late last year, he reintroduced his
Location Privacy Protection Act, which would give Americans more control over their sensitive location information.

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