ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A newly filed lawsuit alleges an investigation has found Google is illegally collecting personal information from school kids younger than 13 in the state.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas claims the technology giant is collecting information through its Google Chromebook laptops and G-Suite for Education program that includes Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs and more.
These free tools are offered in an estimated 60% of the state’s school districts, officials said.
“It is absolutely illegal for technology companies to be tracking children,” Balderas stated. “Google should be telling parents that they’re going to stalk and track these children, and under the guise of education.”
The information at risk includes the kids’ location; the websites they visit; every search term they use in Google’s search engine and the results they click on; the videos they watch on YouTube; contact lists; voice recordings; saved passwords and other behavioral information, according to the lawsuit.
The compromised information could be given to a third party for targeted ads or could wind up in the hands of identity thieves.
“We don’t know where this information is going to end up eventually, whether it’s going to be hacked or on the black web,” Balderas explained.
“I think it’s not unusual for any company that’s in the business of collecting and turning information into a commodity of some kind,” University of New Mexico Information and Security Privacy Officer Jeff Gassaway said.
Balderas believes the lawsuit can help reach a solution without burning a relationship with Google for ongoing educational needs in the state.
“First, we want Google to stop harming children’s privacy rights,” he began. “Number two, we want technology in the classroom but we don’t want children stalked and tracked illegally. And, we want Google to partner with schools and provide the right disclosure notification that they’re entitled to.”
Balderas has also sent a letter to Google’s CEO demanding the company stop this alleged practice.
The AG’s office is still looking into which districts could have been impacted.