Why the mayor of Odense, Denmark, banned Google from its schools
A YouTube snafu involving an 8-year-old, and one unlikely parent activist sparked a heated debate on the tech giant’s ubiquity and handling of children’s data.
News crews showed up at a small provincial town in Denmark as schools sided with their own research instead of Google.
Chromebooks are deeply embedded in Danish education and account for half of the schools. So when Google was banned in Helsingør, schools were disrupted because students were not adapted to pen and paper. Denmark’s Data Protection Agency found out that schools did not understand what Google was doing with students’ data and stopped 8,000 students from using Chromebooks that became a central part of their day to day education.
8-year-old found that his account had been compromised and used for personal gain. He was worried about what might happen if the wrong people found out that he’s responsible.
Jesper Graugaard’s son was not expecting to have a YouTube account from his school. His father reached out to the school, but they said it was a mistake with the Google filters and that he should contact Google.
The campaign to stop Google from collecting data from Danish schools hasn’t yielded any results, but Denmark’s data protection regulator is considering the ban.
The Danish local authority had to disable Google for its schools because they did not do a full assessment before, as required by the EU’s GDPR law. With the suspension of Google for two months, students can still use Chromebooks and negotiate with Google about what will happen next.
It’s up to Helsingør municipality to get Google to switch products in line with GDPR and work with the company on improving current settings. So far, 45 other municipalities have been in contact with Datasilynet about concerns related to their Google products.
Graugaard was not initially worried about the implications of Google for Education. However, now he finds its involvement in Danish educational institutions concerning and is calling on the company to step out. He believes that this may deter privacy considerations with respect to an entire generation.
The main concern Graugaard is highlighting is that they have no idea what data students are giving up to Google or what Google uses the data for.
When Google was banned for two months for failing to comply with Danish law, the teachers of Bymidten School had to adjust their lessons. They started using discarded books in the classroom instead of digital lessons, and Chromebooks were deactivated while unused at home.
Schools are worried that they don’t have the resources or expertise to be compliant with GDPR.
The best way to use a Chromebook for students with dyslexia is to use the tools such as AppWriter. Parents have not complained about data protection, but after Google banned the device, there has been an increase in complaints from parents of these students.
Jan Gronemann says, “I hope [the ban] spreads, as we are giving too much information to multinational corporations, who by their very nature are untrustworthy.” He worries that the information Google has access to, such as how young people behave online and how they might be manipulated later in life because of it, to be concerning.
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