Franken: Concerns Remain Over Google Student Data

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) still has some unanswered questions, and concerns, about how Google's educational service handles information from students, despite saying that Google provided "thorough" answers to his request for information.

Franken wrote the company in January 2015 saying he was concerned about the extent of Google's collection of student data and whether it was using it for noneducational purposes without parents' permission.

“Google’s response to my questioning was thorough, and I appreciate its engagement on this topic," he said in releasing Google's response.

Google said that the personal information it collects is only used for core educational services and that schools are responsible for compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, including getting parental consent for info collection.

As to whether ads are targeted to students using the educational services, Google pointed out that the default for such services had always been the "off" position, but that since 2014, it had changed that to an always off position so ads could not be enabled in the educational services.

But there was a "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," he said. "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.”

Franken said he still has concerns about how Google uses info it collects and will follow up to "further clarify" those questions.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.