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Big Google Is Watching Your Children
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Schools remain shuttered across the country, 30 million Americans are out of work, and food banks are running low, but the edutech sector is booming. Silicon Valley companies are feasting on an exploding client base of quarantined students held hostage to “online learning.” Big Google is leading the way — and that is not OK.

Unsuspecting parents cheering all the software and hardware donations during the pandemic shutdown have no idea the privacy price their children are paying. This isn’t charity. It’s big tech recruitment of vulnerable generations of future Google addicts. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Google inked a deal to provide 4,000 “free” Chromebooks to students, along with “free” Wi-Fi to 100,000 families. In Kentucky, the Jefferson County public schools gave away 25,000 Chromebooks. In Philadelphia, public officials earmarked $11 million to purchase 40,000 Chromebooks for homebound kids.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai crowed a few weeks ago that the company now has 100 million students and educators hooked on Google Classroom. Bent on conquering the virtual meeting market, the online giant announced that its premium Google Meet videoconferencing features are now free to all 80 million customers of its G Suite for Education apps through the fall. Google Meet is racking up 2 million new users a day as school districts abandon Zoom, the dominant virtual meeting app that recently admitted “mistakenly” routing non-Chinese calls through its Beijing-based data centers.

But if educators think Google will provide more protections for American students than the ChiCom government, they’re blind, dumb or bought off. As I’ve chronicled regularly in this column over the past decade, the Silicon Valley giant has repeatedly breached federal privacy laws to extend its tentacles into children’s emails, browsing habits, search engine activity, voice memos and more without parental consent. Google’s information predators have previously admitted to unauthorized scanning and indexing of student email accounts and targeted online advertising based on search engine activity, as well as autosyncing of passwords, browsing history and other private data across devices and accounts belonging to students and families unaware of default tracking.

A new lawsuit seeking class-action status against Google filed in Illinois serves as a warning to all the millions of families enthralled by their pandemic-gifted Chromebooks. Father-of-two Clinton Farwell alleges that Google illegally collected personally identifying biometric information from his children through their public school-issued Chromebooks (loaded with G Suite for Education apps) dating back to 2015. His suit lays out how Google has “infiltrated” K-12 education with hardware and software primarily targeting students under the age of 13, whose face templates and voiceprints are illicitly collected, along with their: physical locations; websites they visit; every search term they use in Google’s search engine (and the results they click on); the videos they watch on YouTube; personal contact lists; voice recordings; saved passwords; and other behavioral information.

ORDER IT NOW

Despite signing a “Student Privacy Pledge” promising not to collect, share and retain private personal data, Google Chromebooks scan students’ faces and unique acoustic details of students’ voices to identify them by name, age, gender and location while using Google platforms. Farwell realized his kids’ biometric data was being stored in a vast database when he discovered they were required to speak and look into the laptops’ microphones and cameras in order to use the school products and apps.

A similar lawsuit by the New Mexico Attorney General’s office filed in federal court in February exposed how Chromebooks and G Suite for Education apps mined students’ Gmail accounts for advertising purposes. The New Mexico AG’s brief also bolstered my previous exclusive reports, based on whistleblowing by Missouri teachers Brooke Henderson and Brette Hay, on Google’s access to student profiles and family computer passwords through the default Chrome Sync function — which can only be blocked by creating a passphrase buried in settings that school officials never inform students about (let alone their parents left in the dark from the moment schools require kids to create Google logins as early as kindergarten).

And now governments are entrusting Google to help develop contact-tracing technology on the promise that they won’t collect location data, won’t exploit data for commercial purposes, and won’t grant access to unauthorized parties? Fox, meet henhouse.

Regulatory slaps on the wrist by toothless federal agencies have done nothing to deter the deceitful data usurpers. Why hasn’t every other state attorney general filed a similar suit? Where is Congress, which passed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 to prevent exactly the kind of routine marauding of students’ digital lives perpetrated by Google and other EdTech vultures? Instead of pushing back, Congress passed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” and the “Foundations for Evidence-Based Policy Act” — deceptively titled bills expanding third-party access to sensitive personal data.

The Invisible Enemy is right under our noses, in our homes and on our kids’ laptops. Instead of removing children en masse from their classrooms in the name of public health, responsible adults should be de-platforming Google’s privacy pillagers from every school in America in the name of public safety.

Michelle Malkin’s email address is [email protected] To find out more about Michelle Malkin and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

 
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  1. anonymous[245] • Disclaimer says:

    The second hyperlink (“mistakenly”) in this passage

    as school districts abandon Zoom, the dominant virtual meeting app that recently admitted “mistakenly” routing non-Chinese calls through its Beijing-based data centers.

    is to the Financial Times:

    Subscribe to the FT to read: Financial Times Zoom admits user data ‘mistakenly’ routed through China.

    No, thanks. But if anyone here has read that article, does it say whether any of the reportedly routed user data were surreptitiously kept a la Big Google, as suggested by the words “data centers”?

    In her previous column, Mrs. Malkin noted Smithfield Foods’ Chinese ownership to smear China with the criticized conduct of Tyson, whose ownership went unmentioned. Here, she apparently has likewise Zoomed in on “Beijing-based data centers” so less attentive readers will associate China with the behavior of Google.

    I don’t recall what little of this author I may have read over the years before she was added here, and can’t say whether this technique is the rule. But it sure is Exceptional!

    • Replies: @botazefa
  2. The nonsense has to stop at some point. They(google) wanted me to install an “update”on the hardware of my OS less than two weeks ago. Parents need to pray and wake up to this threat as well as the threats Michelle cited. Schools need to re-open, this country needs to get their heads out of their collective rear ends and we need to pray and band together, because it should be obvious by now that those in our government and “judicial” system have other interests besides our “best interests”.

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
  3. I’ve been reading your material on Big Brother in the schools for along time, as reviewed here, Mrs. Malkin. I haven’t heard a peep about it from any other conservative pundit, so I appreciate your work in exposing these Orwellian moves. Here are a couple of comments:

    1) Google or no google, one of the worst things for the minds of children under 10 is for parents to give them free access to the electronics of this sort. Give ’em 1/2 an hour to watch youtube videos of Hot Wheels videos while they eat their vegetables or watch Mighty Machines (great show for little boys) with them, but don’t let them spend hours on the screens. It’s what the schools do, unfortunately, when they don’t let the teachers teach the kids themselves. This is part of the reason the Kung Flu “LOCKDOWN” has been a golden time for us.

    2) Sure, one can eventually find that setting that “turns off” the privacy invasions and disseminate that info (perhaps you should have given the direct instructions, Michelle). However, do you think that means it’s all really off? There’s no way for the layman to know. My guess would be a reassuring “hell no, I don’t trust that s__t. Leave it in kitchen inside the steel trash can while we’re not using it.” (Some call me paranoid, haha!)

    3) You bring up Congress and Federal agencies at the end of this column. I have mildly berated you, Mrs. Malkin, in a couple of posts, (this one, along with “Big-Gov and the Dental Branch of the American Stasi”) for missing the forest for the trees on some of this. Perhaps it’s just that I don’t know all the fine points of your ideology, but have you mentioned the US Constitution, Amendment X, and that there was not supposed to be ANY Federal involvement in the education of our kids? That’s the big picture.

  4. @Voice of reason

    VoR, perhaps your prayers have been answered already with the schools remaining closed. I hope it goes right on through the fall (though I really doubt it), as that would be a real game-changer for American society.

    If you rail against the government schools, why do you want your kids to go back? I don’t get that. God may be leaving their education in your hands. Take advantage of this time.

  5. botazefa says:
    @anonymous

    In her previous column, Mrs. Malkin noted Smithfield Foods’ Chinese ownership

    Noted accurately, fair to say?

    What’s your point? That Malkin is unfair to China? Why not say what you mean?

    • Replies: @paranoid goy
    , @anonymous
  6. botazefa says:

    I continue to wonder who decided kids need all this technology.

    Return to pen and paper.

    Maybe computer programming classes, very basic, with no Internet.

    There’s plenty of time to enter the Internet cesspool as an adult.

    The internet is no place for kids.

    But, humans are retarded so my kid has to be exposed to this shit and the school district thinks I’m creepy when I demand for them to ensure my kid’s privacy on Google Classroom.

    Thanks, Ms Malkin, for drawing attention to this issue.

  7. People commenting here still send their kids to public “schools”? Hahahahahaha…. Seriously, I make $16/hr and found a way to keep mine out of the local mind-laundry.

    If you even remotely care about your kids, pull ’em.

    • Agree: Adam Smith
  8. @botazefa

    I thing anonymous said that this particuular author has the habit of writing obviosities weeks and months after the horse has flown the burrow, but she knows a popular conspiracy theory when she sees one, and she makes a fair living using that to produce clickbait for poopity rags like the one she links you to today.
    P.S. “Conspiracy Theory: n. any sociopolitical opion above your paygrade.”

  9. anonymous[245] • Disclaimer says:
    @botazefa

    The point is so clear that you had to truncate even a single sentence to obscure it.

  10. This article is kind of like the Japanese naval staff discussing whether attacking the US at Pearl Harbour was a wise idea circa July 1945 and concluding that it had no connection to their present woes.

    Sometime in 2000 a scandal erupted in Canada whereby someone disclosed that CSIS (our NSA) had collected approximately 3000 pieces of information on each of 36 million Canadian citizens which included 6 million deceased at the time. Think for a moment dear citizen whether you could list 3000 things about yourself no matter how good a memory you have. Thunderous debate erupted in parliament about privacy, integrity, abuse of mandate etc. Finally some water-head minister in charge announced that this was an outrage and all this data will be erased forthwith (laughter).

    Fast forward about 6 months later that year and I am on a plane to Europe and I had the serendipity to be seated beside an internet specialist firefighter on his way to fix some problem for the Austrian government. We had a great rapport and sometime into it he brought up the subject of the CSIS scandal because he had worked on their systems at the time. According to him the agency had compiled much more than the declared 3000 bits of information on everybody.

    I another instance, a friend of a friend (I know) in New Jersey was helping a chum clean out the house of his recently deceased father. They came across a file that was a FOIA document that the father had requested from the government on himself in his later years. It was apparently the size of a Manhattan phone book when they still existed. This was in the 1980’s. His father was a staunch conservative and at one time a Wallace supporter. An honest patriot and tax payer with an American flag on his porch. Maybe a Bircher. What scrutiny do you think an alleged anti-tribesman would get?

    Citizen surveillance is what all governments do. The more corrupt the government the more perceived enemies they have. Pretty soon it is damned near everybody. A fool thinks that only totalitarian systems do this. A solar flare may be the only thing that fixes this problem.

    Cheers-

    • Thanks: Achmed E. Newman
  11. rico says:

    Facebook is now blocking the entire unz.com domain. No links are permitted there.

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