Google is facing a lawsuit from the father of two Illinois children claiming the tech giant had violated the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) when it allegedly collected biometric data from millions of students across the country through its G Suite for Education apps.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit — filed last week in a federal court in San Jose, California — are two children from Illinois identified only as H.K. and J.C., and are represented by their father, Clinton Farwell.
The use of Google’s G Suite for Education apps — which include student versions of Gmail, Calendar, and Google Docs — has increased in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for remote learning, with Google providing thousands of Chromebooks along with free access to its services to school districts across the U.S.
The lawsuit alleges that Google is using its services to have children create face and voice templates as part of the G Suite for Education service. The collection of this data would be in violation of BIPA, which regulates the collection of biometric data of all types in the state.
BIPA lawsuits have been filed against a variety of companies, including Dr. Pepper, Wallgreens, The Home Depot, and WeWork.
It is also likely that Google’s alleged actions would violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law requiring sites to get the permission of parents before collecting any personal information from users under the age of 13.
“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 says.
The lawsuit is asking for the maximum in damages — $1,000 for each member for BIPA violations committed “negligently”, or $5,000 for each member for BIPA violations committed “intentionally or recklessly.”
This lawsuit marks the second time Google has drawn negative attention for its classroom practices. In February, Hector Baldares, the Attorney General of New Mexico, sued Google for an alleged COPPA violation, accusing it of collecting a variety of information about students’ online activities.
April 6, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis