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New Mexico Sues Google Over Kids Privacy Issues

New Mexico is suing Google alleging the search giant is collecting personal information from school children under 13, which violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act as well as the state's Unfair Practices Act. 

That is according to the office of Attorney General Hector Balderas, which filed the lawsuit last month as well as sending a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai warning him about the allegedly illegal conduct. 

Related: Kids Advocates Say FCC Isn't Enforcing COPPA 

Balderas is alleging that Google uses its G Suite of education products, which it provideds free to New Mexico schools, to collect large amounts of valuable personal data on kids without their parent's consent, kids who are often required by the schools to use the Google products. 

Balderas said that data includes "geolocation information, websites visited, terms searched for on Google and YouTube, contact lists, and voice recordings..." 

Related: YouTube Paying $170M to Settle Privacy Complaint 

“Tracking student data without parental consent is not only illegal, it is dangerous; and my office will hold any company accountable who compromises the safety of New Mexican children," he says. 

In his letter to Pichai, Balderas called Google a vitally important partner in New Mexico schools, providing much-needed tech to kids who might not otherwise have it. But he said he has to put the safety of school children first. "I demand that this conduct cease immediately," he wrote.  

The lawsuit seeks a ruling that Google's conduct violates COPPA, an injunction against said conduct, and civil penalties--$5,000 per violation--damages, restitution and court costs. 

“These claims are factually wrong," said a Google spokesperson. "G Suite for Education allows schools to control account access and requires that schools obtain parental consent when necessary. We do not use personal information from users in primary and secondary schools to target ads. School districts can decide how best to use Google for Education in their classrooms and we are committed to partnering with them.”  

John Eggerton
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.