If there is any company in the United States that understands the fallout from not completely complying with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), it's Google. In the past few months, the company was on the receiving end of a Federal Trade Commission fine, which ultimately changed the entire community policy for YouTube. However, this seems to have had little to no effect on the wider Google, as they are once again in trouble.
A lawsuit, filed by New Mexico, claims that Google has violated both COPPA and New Mexico's Unfair Practices Act. Unlike the YouTube issue, where the company tried to claim that they couldn't control that children were using the platform, there can be no mistaking the intentions in this case. This case involves Google's tools being offered to school students.
While adults tend to understand that if the tool is free, the product is you and your data, children cannot understand exactly what that means. This is the reason why laws like COPPA exist, preventing companies like Google from tracking the behavior of children and creating data profiles of them. The suit claims that Google has knowingly done exactly that, saying,
To drive adoption in more schools-and to alleviate legitimate concerns about its history of privacy abuses-Google has been making public statements and promises that are designed to convince parents, teachers, and school officials that Google takes student privacy seriously and that it only collects education-related data from students using its platform.
Despite these claims, New Mexico believes that Google has been mining student data on the platforms and while using its hardware and software in schools. The suit insists, "Google has used Google Education to spy on New Mexico children and their families."
Google claims that the claims are "factually wrong" and that the Google Education platform allows educators to control the data collected and requires parental consent, adding, "We do not use personal information from users in primary and secondary schools to target ads."