Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Google in Court

Herold, B. (2014, March 13). Google under fire for data-mining student email messages. Education Week Online. Retrieved from

I work at a “Google Apps for Education” school. I use Google Documents with students and colleagues every day; I use Gmail all of the time. In that regard, I am biting the hand that feeds me. However, any school using Google’s suite of apps ought to pay close attention to this article, which carefully delineates the case against Google heard this spring in Federal court. Quite honestly, it also explains the numerous spam emails my seventh eighth grade students receive through their school Gmail accounts. It’s a powerful reminder of the adage, “when you’re receiving a free service, you are not the customer.”
Herold delineates the suit brought by nine different plaintiffs against Google; Google admits to data-mining student email messages for marketing purposes. Google also created profiles using this data for the purpose of targeted marketing. Data mining potentially violates Federal laws prohibiting unwarranted wiretaps; at issue is whether Google’s admission that it “scans” student emails for targeted advertising violates this law. Herold offers examples of how districts and universities are responding, as even schools that opt out of advertising are subject to Google’s scanning of all correspondence. Notably, he cited the University of Alaska’s “Google mail FAQ’s” publication that alerts students to the fact that keyword scanning will be used.
This article provides essential background not only for school and district staff members, but also for students who are either Gmail users or involved in any kind of digital citizenship education. 

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