April 30, 2014
Google’s Student-Based Gmail Accounts Will No Longer Have Ads
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Google made two changes to its Apps for Education platform this week. The provider will no longer scan Gmail or run ads in Gmail for Apps for Education; it also removed the Education Administrator's ability to enable or disable ads.
Google reports that 30 million students, teachers and administrators globally use Google Apps for Education. The platform includes a range of Google services such as Search, Gmail, Calendar, Drive and Docs. Ads were removed from Google Search for K-12 users in the past year.
The search giant decided this week to further remove or restrict ads for all students using the Gmail service.
"We've permanently removed all ads scanning in Gmail for Apps for Education, which means Google cannot collect or use student data in Apps for Education services for advertising purposes," wrote Bram Bout, director, Google for Education.
The second change is to restrict ads from running in cases where an administrator previously had the ability to turn ads on.
"We've permanently removed the 'enable/disable' toggle for ads in the Apps for Education Administrator console. This means ads in Apps for Education services are turned off and administrators no longer have the option or ability to turn ads in these services on," Bout wrote.
Scanning of student Gmail accounts was halted after the issue came up in a recent court case, the Wall Street Journal reports.
"Google didn’t place ads inside the apps, which it offered to educational institutions since 2006. However, the company continued to scan the contents of students’ Gmail accounts., gathering information that could potentially have been used to target ads to those students elsewhere online. Google said it never used the information to target ads anywhere," wrote Alistair Barr from the Wall Street Journal.
The court case the Wall Street Journal refers to is one where students and other Gmail users sued Google in the state of California last year, claiming email scanning violates wiretap laws. Some allege that the activity may violate the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, a law that protects educational records, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing Education Week magazine.
Google's step back from ads for the educational platform follows another in the educational software space.
"Google’s move marked the second time in as many weeks that privacy concerns prompted changes at a maker of education software. InBloom, a nonprofit that managed and stored data about school students, said last week it was shutting down over concerns about the way it collected and shared data. InBloom was partly financed by Microsoft co-Founder Bill Gates’ charity the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation," Barr wrote.
Microsoft forged ahead with its educational offering last week, enhancing its Bing in the Classroom platform, which had been in a pilot program until last week.
Security is top-of-mind across all of its platforms, and Google Apps for Education is no exception.
Google for Education director Bout said that all Google uses is an encrypted HTTPS connection for inbound and outbound emails. "[This] means no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between your laptop, phone or tablet and Gmail's servers -- even if you're using public WiFi," Bout wrote.