Google Changes Mind, Signs Obama’s Student Privacy Pledge


In an about-face, Google has finally decided to sign President Barack Obama's student privacy pledge.

The President originally endorsed the the privacy pledge last week, which commits companies to not selling student data to third parties or use targeted ads on education products, in addition to making it easier for parents to see their students' data and know exactly how that data is collected and used. While companies like Apple and Microsoft were among the first to sign the pledge, Google was not among the 75 companies to do so.

Privacy advocates lauded the initiative, but many could not help but notice that companies including Google and Amazon were nowhere to be found on the list.

All firms were encouraged to sign the list by the president, who went on to say that parents would be made aware of those companies who did not sign. Obama went on to discuss a legislative proposal he would push that would make sure that all information collected in classrooms was used solely for educational purposes.

Google had said it did not sign the pledge because existing contracts and policies in place already suggest the company has a commitment to student privacy. The company went on to say that protecting users' data was a "top priority."

The company faced criticism after placing advertisements on its "Apps for Education" products last year, which are used by 40 million people. The company announced it would be removing the option to enable ads on those services as a whole last April. In addition, they said they would no longer be collecting or using student data for advertising, reports Hayley Tsukayama for The Washington Post.

The company has made no comment concerning which, if any, of the commitments called for in the pledge were objectionable.

Despite this, the company has changed its mind and joined 15 other education-technology companies such as the YouTube-based educational organization Khan Academy, in signing the pledge last week, writes Alistair Barr for The Wall Street Journal.

"We've signed the pledge to reaffirm the commitments we've made directly to our customers," a Google spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

While no official comment has been made concerning why the company changed its mind, Jules Polonetsky, executive director of Future of Privacy Forum, said that ever since the president endorsed the pledge there has been increasing interest in it, and local schools had begun to about it during discussions with prospective service providers.

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