google classroom

Google Facing Lawsuit Over Collection of Facial Scans, Personal Data From Children

School districts are increasingly turning to Google for online classroom tools during the coronavirus pandemic, but the company has faced scrutiny for the data it collects on students.

An Illinois parent is suing Google on behalf of his two children for collecting biometric data, particularly facial scans and “voiceprints,” from millions of students through its educational services.

The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, was filed last Thursday in a San Jose, Calif. federal court, CNET reported. The father, Clinton Farwell, claims that Google collects data through a program that provides Chromebooks and free access to G Suite for Education apps, including email, calendar and Docs services.

Under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), the collection of facial scans, fingerprints or other biometric data without providing advance notice, obtaining written consent and disclosing how the data will be used. In recent years, Illinois residents have filed class action lawsuits against tech giants with some success, including a $550 million settlement with Facebook in January.

The Google lawsuit claims that the data collection program violates BIPA as well as the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires parental consent when companies collect personal data on users who are younger than 13 years old.

"Google has complete control over the data collection, use, and retention practices of the ‘G Suite for Education’ service, including the biometric data and other personally identifying information collected through the use of the service, and uses this control not only to secretly and unlawfully monitor and profile children, but to do so without the knowledge or consent of those children's parents," the lawsuit reads, according to CNET.

Read More: New Bill Would Update Children’s Online Privacy Law In Wake Of YouTube, TikTok Controversies

In February, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sued the company for similar allegations relating to COPPA violations, including the collection of student locations, web histories, search histories, contact lists and voice recordings. YouTube, which is owned by Google, resolved a COPPA lawsuit of its own in September 2019 with a $170 million settlement and an agreement to make changes to its children’s content system.

Usage of Google’s tools by students, teachers and staff has rapidly increased as districts have been forced to move instruction, exams and operations online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Google Classroom downloads have increased to 50 million, and the company has partnered with the California state government to donate 4,000 Chromebooks to students in need.

Farwell is seeking damages of $1,000 to each member of his children’s class for BIPA violations committed “negligently” and $5,000 each for violations committed “intentionally or recklessly,” according to the complaint. Google has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    7 Ways You Can Secure a High-Traffic Commercial Security Gate  

    Your commercial security gate is one of your most powerful tools to keep thieves off your property. Without a security gate, your commercial perimeter security plan is all for nothing. Read Now

  • Making Safety and Security Intrinsic to School Design

    Public anxieties about school safety are escalating across the country. According to a 2023 Gallup report, 44% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, a 10 percentage-point increase since 2019. Unfortunately, these fears are likely to increase if the incidence of school tragedies continues to mount. As a result, school leaders are now charged with two non-negotiable responsibilities. The first, as always, is to ensure kids have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. Sadly, their second responsibility is to keep the children in their care safe from threats and physical danger. Read Now

  • The Power of a Layered Approach to Safety

    In a perfect world, every school would have an unlimited budget to help secure their schools. In reality, schools must prioritize what budget they have while navigating the complexities surrounding school security and lockdown. Read Now

  • How a Security System Can Enhance Arena Safety and the Fan Experience

    Ensuring guests have both a memorable experience and a safe one is no small feat for your physical security team. Stadiums, ballparks, arenas, and other large event venues are increasingly leveraging new technologies to transform the fan experience and maintain a high level of security. The goal is to preserve the integrity and excitement of the event while enhancing security and remaining “behind the scenes.” Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • EasyGate SPT and SPD

    EasyGate SPT SPD

    Security solutions do not have to be ordinary, let alone unattractive. Having renewed their best-selling speed gates, Cominfo has once again demonstrated their Art of Security philosophy in practice — and confirmed their position as an industry-leading manufacturers of premium speed gates and turnstiles. 3

  • Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation.

    Connect ONE®

    Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation. 3

  • PE80 Series

    PE80 Series by SARGENT / ED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin

    ASSA ABLOY, a global leader in access solutions, has announced the launch of two next generation exit devices from long-standing leaders in the premium exit device market: the PE80 Series by SARGENT and the PED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin. These new exit devices boast industry-first features that are specifically designed to provide enhanced safety, security and convenience, setting new standards for exit solutions. The SARGENT PE80 and Corbin Russwin PED4000/PED5000 Series exit devices are engineered to meet the ever-evolving needs of modern buildings. Featuring the high strength, security and durability that ASSA ABLOY is known for, the new exit devices deliver several innovative, industry-first features in addition to elegant design finishes for every opening. 3