Google sued for allegedly collecting biometric data of schoolchildren

Dell Chromebook 13
Dell Chromebook 13 (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has been sued by the father of two children over the alleged collection of biometric data via its G Suite for Education program.
  • The data being collected is reportedly voice and facial recognition data.
  • Google for its part marks its G Suite for Education program as COPPA compliant.

Google has been sued for alleged privacy violations by the father of two elementary school children, alleging violations of Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act or BIPA (via CNET).

The suit, filed on behalf of the children whose names start with H.K. and J.C. by their father Clinton Farwell, claims that Google violates BIPA by reportedly collecting facial recognition and biometric data from children via its distribution of Chromebooks under its G Suite for Education program.

The lawsuit alleges that:

Google never informed the parents of the children in Illinois (or elsewhere in the country) whose voiceprints and face templates it has collected of the specific purpose and length of term for which their children's biometric identifiers and information would be collected, stored, and used, nor did Google obtain a written release from the parents of any of these children.

It alleges (via Brinkwire) that Google uses this data to "secretly and unlawfully monitor and profile children" and does so without "the knowledge or consent of those children's parents."

The suit is demanding $1,000 for each member of the class in question towards each BIPA violation it committed negligently, and $5,000 for each offense committed recklessly.

For its part, Google marks its G Suite for Education program as compliant with the federal equivalent of BIPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA. The company says that they "contractually require that schools using G Suite for Education get the parental consent required by COPPA. Our services can be used in compliance with COPPA as long as a school has parental consent."

Google last month told The Verge (in response to a lawsuit raised by the New Mexico Attorney General), that it "[does] not use personal information from users in primary and secondary schools to target ads."

With more students now working from home, it seems Google's dominance over the American Education System is likely to increase. The company recently signed up to provide free Wi-Fi and Chromebooks to Californian households in need.

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Michael Allison