Google is asking a federal judge to throw out a privacy lawsuit brought by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, who claims the company violates the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by “spying” on children who use educational apps.
“The complaint should be dismissed,” Google argues in papers filed earlier this month with U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal in New Mexico. “The central allegation -- that Google’s practices for obtaining parental consent violate COPPA -- fails as a matter of law because the challenged practices comply with authoritative federal guidance.”
The company's papers come in response to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas' February lawsuit, which focuses on Google's web-based G Suite for Education apps -- including Gmail -- and its Chromebooks for students.
Balderas alleged that Google violated representations that its educational products and services only collect education-related data. Instead, according to Balderas, the company's Chromebooks are configured to upload a host of data, including web-browsing activity, searches and passwords.
He accused the company of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits website operators from collecting data from children younger than 13 -- including tracking data -- without parental consent.
The Federal Trade Commission -- tasked with crafting regulations that implement the law -- has said schools can consent in lieu of parents, provided the information is used for a school-authorized educational purpose.
Google argues it relies on schools to obtain parents' permission.
“Schools, unlike Google, know who each student’s parents are and, unlike Google, are typically in regular contact with parents to obtain consent for a variety of other in-school activities. Schools therefore are well-positioned to obtain parental consent,” the company writes.
Google adds that the FTC's guidance allowing schools to consent on behalf of parents “is sensible.”
The company writes: “Schools already obtain parental consent for a wide range of things, ranging from field trips to use of student images.”
Balderas also claims Google is violating other laws, including a prohibition on “intrusion upon seclusion” -- meaning “an invasion of the plaintiff’s ‘private’ space or solitude,'” that's “highly offensive.”
Google counters that the allegations in Balderas' complaint don't support his intrusion-upon-seclusion claim.
“Allegations that Google collected data from students using its educational services, and used it in a manner consistent with its disclosures, does not suffice,” the company writes.