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Google is Tracking Children’s Internet Use, Suit States

— April 13, 2020

Lawsuit against Google is seeking class action status.

Two Illinois children, identified only as H.K. and J.C., have filed a lawsuit in a federal court in San Jose, California, through their father, Clinton Farwell, alleging Google is “collecting biometric data, including face scans, of millions of students.”  The suit is seeking class-action status.  In their complaint, the children claim that Google is tracking users “using its services to create face templates and voiceprints of children through its program that provides Chromebooks and G Suite for Education apps,” including student versions of Gmail, Calendar and Google Docs.

“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 suit states.  Google’s actions “violate Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, in effect to regulate facial recognition, fingerprinting and other biometric technologies throughout the state.”  The federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act also prohibits sites from collecting personal information from tracking users who are under 13 years old without parental consent.

Google is Tracking Children's Internet Use, Suit States
Photo by Hannah Wei on Unsplash

The children are asking for “damages of over $1,000 for each member of the class for BIPA violations if those violations are due to the company’s negligence, or around $5,000 each for each offense committed intentionally or recklessly,” according to court documents.

As Google is being hit with the privacy lawsuit, it has also made the decision to stop a controversial Chrome change which was designed to increase security and privacy by phasing out support for third party tracking cookies.  Google said the roll back is temporary and will be picked up again at a later date.

“With the stable release of Chrome 80 in February, Chrome began enforcing secure-by-default handling of third-party cookies as part of our ongoing effort to improve privacy and security across the web,” said Justin Schuh director of Chrome engineering who indicated that Google had been “gradually rolling out the Chrome changes while closely monitoring and evaluating ecosystem impact, including proactively reaching out to individual websites and services to ensure their cookies are labeled correctly.”

He recently added, “In light of the extraordinary global circumstances due to COVID-19, we are temporarily rolling back the enforcement of SameSite cookie labeling, starting today.  While most of the web ecosystem was prepared for this change, we want to ensure stability for websites providing essential services including banking, online groceries, government services and healthcare that facilitate our daily life during this time.”

COVID-19 is affecting all tech companies who are racing to support increased user access during a time in which many are transitioning to working and attending school from home.  Many consumers have expressed security concerns, particularly in the medical and mental health fields as telehealth has now become standard.  Cybersecurity is of outmost importance during social distancing and shelter in place regulations.


Children sue Google for collecting face scans, ‘voiceprints’ of millions of students

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