(WASHINGTON POST) – Google is a major player in U.S. education. In fact, in many public schools around the country, it’s technically a “school official.” And that designation means parents may not get a chance to opt out of having information about their children shared with the online advertising giant.
The combined allure of Google’s free suite of productivity tools and cheap laptops that use the company’s Web-based ChromeOS operating system have made Google’s products a popular choice at schools around the country. And the company’s growing dominance is raising concern from some privacy advocates who allege it is using some student data for its own benefit.
Google’s U.S. educational partnerships are possible thanks in part to school districts’ reliance on the government’s reinterpretation of an obscure 1970s-era student privacy law.
The law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA, requires schools to get written consent from parents before sharing personal information about students in many cases or risk federal education dollars. But it has an exception for sharing data with “school officials” who have a “legitimate educational interest” in the data.