Denmark’s national data watchdog ordered half a dozen schools to stop using Google products after an investigation into the tech giant’s handling of student’s personal information.
Under recent pressure to digitize their classrooms, many Danish schools opted for Google’s cheap laptops and education software. The Times of London reports that Chromebook laptops, which can be purchased for less than £100 ($100), are a classroom staple in about 40 of the country’s 98 administrative districts.
But there have been concerns among parents, teachers and regulators over handing so much sensitive information on their children to a company who profits from analyzing user behavior.
The current backlash began when parents in Helsingor, about 25 miles north of the capital, Copenhagen, noticed the system had automatically created a profile for their child on YouTube, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, reports The Times.
The profile listed the child’s full name, school and grade – which can be used to approximate age – even though the parents had not been asked for their consent.
After investigating, the Danish Data Protection Agency concluded in July that that data processing involving students using Google’s cloud-based Workspace software suite — which includes Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar and Google Drive — “does not meet the requirements” of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations on privacy.
Google has since been banned from Helsingor’s seven state schools, and the watchdog agency is reportedly investigating another 20 cases where the tech giant may have violated children’s privacy rights.
“I’d be wary about whether Google is being fed a lot of information about the children that it could later use for other purposes,” Jesper Lund, of the IT Policy Association, told Denmark’s public broadcaster.
“Once the child gets older, Google will have a customized profile for them and will be able to target them in every imaginable way.”
This incident is the latest in Alphabet’s struggles against Europe’s aggressive GDPR. TechCrunch reported that data agencies in France, Italy and Austria recently ruled that websites using Google Analytics to track visitors contravened European data privacy rules, as that personal data is transferred to the U.S.