U.S. Sen Al Franken.
Photograph by Larry French — Getty Images
By Michal Addady
January 14, 2016

Senator Al Franken expressed concerns about Google data mining students’ personal information.

This subject first came to light in December when the Electric Frontier Foundation filed a complaint against Google (goog). Fortune reported that the EFF accused the company of collecting information about students’ Internet habits without their or their parents permission, a practice which would violate both Google’s promises to consumers as well as FTC rules.

It caught Senator Franken’s attention, prompting him to write a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai in which he wrote:

I am concerned that this collection of data may enable Google to create detailed profiles of students and ultimately target advertising to them or use the profiles for other non-educational purposes without the students’ knowledge.

The director of Google apps for education, Jonathan Rochelle, wrote a post in December responding to the EFF’s claims saying, “While we appreciate the EFF’s focus on student data privacy, we are confident that our tools comply with both the law and our promises, including the Student Privacy Pledge, which we signed earlier this year.”

Despite Google’s reassurance, TechCrunch reports that Franken had numerous questions for Pichai. He asked what kind of information is collected if a student is signed into GAFE (Google Apps for Education) or using a Chromebook provided by Google, but isn’t using GAFE services. He also asked why this information is collected and whether it’s used for educational purposes or for business purposes unrelated to educational technology.

He praised Google for its efforts in education, but wants the company to clarify to what extent information is being collected and used without the students’ or parents’ consent.

When Fortune reached out to Google, a company spokesperson only had this to say: “We’ve responded to the EFF in detail and we’re very happy to provide Senator Franken with more information.”


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