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Google has decided to pull out of the Glow procurement process.

Google opt out.tiff

This will come as a bit of a shock to some folk in Scottish education who have been keen for Google Apps for Education to be the basis of the next iteration of Glow. Google will instead concentrate in trying to work with individual local authorities to provide it’s Apps For Education package. Apart from the concerns this must raise about fragmentation my concerns about Google Apps and Google being involved in Scottish education continue. I have always had real concerns about Google and the privacy of an individuals data collected by Google. These concerns have grown over the last couple of months.

I always was sceptical about Google Apps in education. Although Google say’s in its privacy policy about Apps for Education that they do not track or collect personal data there is a real sense question of trust around Google. Teachers and parents want to be totally convinced. Personally I don’t trust Google as a corporation anymore.

Why?

Here are some reasons

Google’s business model – the selling of ads targeted on individual user behaviour – relies on collecting browsing information from its visitors. Before Thursday 28th of February 2012 different services did not share this information. This meant a search on, for example, YouTube, would not affect the results or advertising you would encounter on another Google site such as Gmail. The new agreement, which users cannot opt out of unless they stop using Google’s services, will mean activity on all of the company’s sites will be linked. Here are just part of the terms of use  “When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content,” says the new and unified privacy policy of Google, which came to effect on March 1, 2012.

This change in privacy policy has led Viviane Reding, the European commissioner of justice, to say there are ‘doubts’ over the legality of internet giant’s move as French authorities open EU-wide investigation.


Google subverted mobile Safari’s default protections to track users in ways they did not agree to be tracked,  as the Wall Street Journal reported: “The findings appeared to contradict some of Google’s own instructions to Safari users on how to avoid tracking.”

Google illegally accepted ads for Canadian pharmacies with the purpose of delivering them to American users.


Google and personal data

What about the data Google might hold on pupils and teachers?   What if I wanted to find out what information Google had collected about me then as an EU citizen under EU -wide data protection rules, anyone can send a written request for their full data and, for a small fee, the company has to ship it out, usually within 40 days. As this article recently in the Guardian points out “The company has a main US branch, Google Inc, and subsidiaries within other countries. In the UK, that’s Google UK Ltd. Here’s the catch: Google UK Ltd, which is subject to the EU rules that let you access your data, doesn’t hold it. As Google says in a statement: “Please note that Google UK Ltd does not process any personal data in relation to Google services, which are provided by Google Inc, a US-incorporated company whose address you can find in the Google privacy policy.” While we can find Google Inc’s address, that doesn’t necessarily help: a spokeswoman for the UK regulator, the ICO, confirmed that EU laws on subject access requests do not extend to the US parent company. This means there’s no real chance of getting hold of user data from Google through this route.”

Google Apps for Government Concerns.

These concerns about Google, trust and privacy are spreading. According to SafeGov.org experts Jeff Gould and Karen Evans, “Google’s recent changes to its privacy policy allowing it to combine information about users pulled from the entire range of its online products raises serious privacy concerns for Google Apps For Government (GAFG) that should not be overlooked by public sector officials who have already made the move to the cloud or who are looking to move to the cloud.”

Norwegian and German Public Sector concerns.
Norwegian public sector organisations will be banned from using Google Apps after the Norwegian data protection authorities ruled that the service could put citizens’ personal data at risk.

The data protection authority said Google Apps did not comply with Norwegian privacy laws because there was insufficient information about where data was being kept.



Given this growing concern it is probably just as well that Google decided to walk away from the national procurement for Glow. The question is will individual local authorities in Scotland want to use Google Apps in Education?





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