04 Jan As Google Domination Sweeps the Education Market, Should Parents Be Concerned About Student Privacy?
Google products account for more than half of the market share for educational technology in the United States. As the company addresses complaints of snooping on students, parents can take action to protect children from unnecessary privacy intrusion.
In early December, Futuresource Consulting announced that Google Chromebooks account for more than 50 percent of the educational technology in K-12 classrooms across the country. In 2012, the devices barely amounted to 1 percent of classroom technology, but after three short years, the company managed to deploy 4.4 million of the 8.9 million devices sold nationwide in 2015. The rapid deployment of Google Chromebooks has continually edged Apple and Microsoft out of their privileged spots. Between 2012 and 2015, market share for Apple and Microsoft decreased from 52 percent to 24 percent and from 43 percent to 24 percent, respectively.
With approximately 30,000 Chromebook deployments occurring every school day, parents may be unsettled by recent accusations that Google is spying on students. Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization, recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, alleging that Google violated its Student Privacy Pledge by collecting personal information and browsing data for non-educational purposes without seeking authorization.
Although the Google Apps for Education suite doesn’t collect data, other non-core services mine student data while they are logged into Chromebooks. Another problem involves the Chrome Sync feature, which enables data collection by default on Chromebooks. EFF also cited the existence of administrative controls that allow school officials to change data collection settings on all Chromebooks, creating a potential conflict of interest.
At least one privacy advocate disagrees with the EFF complaint. Executive director of Future of Privacy Forum, Jules Polonetsky, says the claim is unmerited, as syncing functions are widely used by schools to grant students access to their accounts from any device. He also stated that Google’s data mining practices are not used for behavioral advertising targeting minors, and all collected information is kept secure and anonymous.
For parents who still have doubts, the answer is simple. Students can opt out of data collection on their Chromebooks. Follow these quick tips to disable the feature.
- Select the user icon at the bottom of the screen, and open the “Settings” menu.
- Select “People” and “Advanced Sync Settings.” Using the dropdown menu, select “Choose What to Sync.”
- Uncheck any options you don’t want synced, such as Apps, History or Passwords, and click “OK” to accept the changes.
- Select “Show Advanced Settings,” and uncheck the desired options listed under “Privacy” and “Passwords and Forms.”
- Disable the following option: “Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic.” Click “OK.”
- Select “Content Settings,” and choose your preferences under “Cookies.”
- In the “Protected Content” section, disable the feature “Allow identifiers for protected content.” Make sure all settings are finalized.
Dell Chromebook 11 | Acer C720 / C740 | Asus C200 | Lenovo Chromebook | HP Chromebook | MacBook Air | MacBook Pro