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Dem wants answers from Google on student privacy

Dem wants answers from Google on student privacy
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Democratic Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenOvernight Tech: AT&T, Time Warner CEOs defend merger before Congress | More tech execs join Trump team | Republican details path to undoing net neutrality Lawmakers grill AT&T, Time Warner execs on B merger Dems press Trump to keep Obama overtime rule MORE (Minn.) has Google in his sights over allegations the company mines the data of students who use its applications for schools.

Franken sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday asking him to “provide more information on Google for Education products and services and how the company is addressing issues of student privacy and security.”

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"Given the sensitive nature of student data, all parties involved, including the school administrators, teachers, parents, and the students, should have a clear understanding about what data are shared by schools with EdTech vendors, what data are collected by those vendors, how long the data are stored, and how they use the data,” he said.

In the letter, Franken asks Google to provide information on the services — including on what happens when a student linked to a Google Apps for Education account is logged into their account but not using one of the applications. Google also produces inexpensive laptops, called Chromebooks, for schools.

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter follows a December report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that Google was tracking data on students who used its Chrome browser. The group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission based on its investigation into the services and accused Google of violating the Student Privacy Pledge, a document signed by many educational technology companies.

"We have responded to the EFF in detail and we're very happy to provide Senator Franken with more information," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

“Our goal is to ensure teachers and students everywhere have access to powerful, affordable and easy-to-use tools for teaching, learning and working together,” said Jonathan Rochelle, the director of Google Apps for Education, in a blog post. “We have always been firmly committed to keeping student information private and secure.”

When it comes to non-educational services being accessed by a student’s account, like YouTube, Google said it was “committed to ensuring that K-12 student personal information is not used to target ads in these services, and in some cases we show no ads at all."

- Updated at 9:27 p.m.