Judge Dismisses New Mexico Lawsuit Against Google Over Children's Data Privacy
By Sarah E. Needleman
A federal court dismissed a New Mexico lawsuit alleging that
Alphabet Inc.'s Google knowingly spied on students and their
families through its suite of cloud-based products for schools.
U.S. District Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal last week ruled that
the internet company didn't violate the Children's Online Privacy
Protection Act, or COPPA, in relying on schools to review or limit
what data its education platform collects and uses on behalf of
While the state argued that Google buried the option in its
settings for students and parents to opt out of allowing the
company to read their data, "there is no requirement that the
notice be written in terms understandable by a child under the age
of 13," the judge wrote in her ruling.
Judge Freudenthal also noted that recently published guidance
from the Federal Trade Commission also says schools can be
intermediaries for parental notice and consent.
"We strongly disagree with the Court's ruling and will continue
to litigate to protect child privacy rights," said New Mexico
Attorney General Hector Balderas in a statement. "I have no doubt
that a company that has already paid millions of dollars in fines
to the federal government is not putting the privacy and security
of children first."
The judge said any amended complaint would have to be filed by
A Google spokesman said the company is pleased with the case
outcome. "We are committed to partnering with schools to protect
students' privacy," he said.
The suit, filed in February in Albuquerque, was a fresh
challenge to Google's data-collection practices amid broader
criticism by lawmakers, regulators and others of the company's
efforts to protect user privacy, particularly regarding children.
Federal law prohibits companies from collecting data on children
under 13 without parental consent.
A year ago, YouTube, also owned by Alphabet, agreed to pay a
$170 million fine to the FTC, without admitting wrongdoing, to
settle allegations that it tracked internet activity for children
to sell ads for products.
In a June company blog post, Google said it doesn't use any
personal information from G Suite for Education users in K-12
schools to target ads.
Google dominates the U.S. school-device market with an estimated
63% share as of the second quarter through the distribution of its
low-cost Chromebooks and Chromebook tablets, according to estimates
from Futuresource Consulting Ltd. The budget laptops house the
Google for Education platform, a suite of free tools for schools
that include Google-powered email, cloud storage and calendars.
They also introduce students to some of the company's other
products starting as early as kindergarten, including its Chrome
operating system and web browser.
In pursuing its case against Google, New Mexico said it worked
with an analytics team that conducted forensic testing to show
student data being unlawfully transmitted. While students and
parents can opt out of allowing Google to read the data, the
lawsuit alleged that option is buried in settings where parents
likely never see it.
At the time, Mr. Balderas said student safety should be "the
number-one priority of any company providing services to our
children, particularly in schools."
--Yoree Koh contributed to this article.
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 29, 2020 11:28 ET (15:28 GMT)
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