Google Collects Student Data, But Not For Ad Targeting

In a letter to Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Google says it doesn't use personal data to target advertising to kids on its network of sites, but acknowledges that it collects information about students when they visit sites like YouTube and Maps.

More than 30 million students and teachers use Google Apps for Education (GAFE), a free set of productivity tools that includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Groups, and Drive, and includes a word processing tool, spreadsheets, and presentations.

There are no ads in GAFE core services, and student data in these services is not used for advertising purposes, Sue Molinari, Google's VP for public policy and government relations, explains in the letter to Senator Franken.



Google, however, does track use for other reasons such as developing Google products. Tracking occurs when students sign into their GAFE account but use Search, YouTube, Blogger and Maps -- applications considered to be outside of Google’s core educational package.

"In GAFE, Google collects both personal data, like a student’s name and email address, as well as other information about how the services are used, such as the type of device and the IP address of the user’s network," Molinari writes, pointing to a Google Apps for Education Privacy Notice.

Molinari explains that Google uses students' personal data in GAFE core services, allowing them to communicate using email and collaborate on assignments using Google Docs.

Franken sent a letter to Google in January asking company officials to clarify how it uses data collected from students using its Internet services, GAFE, and Chromebook, the company's cloud-based laptop.

"I am concerned that this collection of data may enable Google to create detailed profiles of the students and ultimately target advertising to them or use the profiles for other non-educational purposes without the students' knowledge," Senator Franken wrote in the Jan. 13, 2016 letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, asking for a response by Feb. 12.

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