New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against tech giant Google, accusing the company of violating federal and state child privacy laws by collecting massive amounts of personal information from kids through products distributed to their schools.

The complaint says Google has infiltrated over half of the nation’s primary and secondary schools by offering free software and Chromebook laptops, and it alleges the company is illegally using the products to mine personal information of students under 13 — including their physical locations, browsing histories, contact lists, voice recordings and passwords.

“[Google] fails to provide parents the ability to meaningfully review or limit the data collected and used,” the lawsuit says. “Once students are signed into their Google Education accounts, Google uses cookies to identify students and begins collecting essentially everything they do online.”

In Santa Fe Public Schools, all students in grades 7-12 receive take-home Chromebooks and younger children work with computers in the classroom.

Superintendent Veronica García said the district is aware of the attorney general’s lawsuit.

“The district has not had a data breach of either student or staff personal identifiable information, but our district is constantly reviewing and updating our privacy and student data protocols as well as researching new ways to provide the best digital security for our students,” García said in an emailed statement.

“We will continue to monitor the Attorney General’s lawsuit, and will assist the Attorney General however we can,” she added.

Federal law prohibits companies from collecting personal information from children under 13 without their parents’ consent.

The lawsuit accuses Google of marketing its education software to school districts and teachers without disclosing its intention to gather student data. And while the Google Education software offers an option to stop applications from reading student data, the complaint says, the option is turned off by default and is buried in settings that parents likely never see.

“Google has used this access to collect massive quantities of data from young children not to benefit the school you have contracted with, but to benefit Google’s own commercial interests,” Balderas wrote in a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. “The data Google has illegally collected can then be spread throughout the globe through both legitimate and illegitimate means.”

The lawsuit claims Google has engaged in deceptive acts that justify up to $5,000 in civil penalties for each violation of the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act.

Balderas said in a news release he alerted schools across New Mexico there is no immediate harm to the continued use of Google products and that the lawsuit should not interrupt daily instruction.

His office filed a similar lawsuit against Google and several other technology companies in September 2018, alleging they were illegally collecting data from mobile apps targeting children, the statement said.

The companies have denied wrongdoing, and the case is awaiting a decision by a federal judge in Albuquerque.

(1) comment

BARRY SILVER

GOOGLE, a colossus of the worldwide web and a monument to unbridled capitalism, now cynically dips its probes into our young kids' habits. attitudes and preoccupations, and will no doubt use the data to tantalize them well into young adulthood in exchange for an addictive combination of hardware and software because the school system's authorizing officials ignored their obligation to due diligence for the GOOGLE freebie.

AG Balderas deserves recognition for his vigilance and encouragement to harness the energies of his fellow AG'S to join in his suit or file their own.

Concerning this important initiative, the NEW MEXICAN'S reporter deserves a trip to the woodshed, along with the supervisory chain of command that approved this article for publication.

a civil penalty of $ 5000 per incident is data,not information, context or perspective!

what is the estimated number of such incidents since the enactment of the law, and the potential total fine, if our AG'S suit is successful?

can we expect clarification from the reporter and will it also include whether separate, class action suits can go forward against GOOGLE and the school board?

finally, how many school boards representing how many students nationally have grabbed for GOOGLE'S bright shiny object?

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