Google Stops Scanning Student Gmail Accounts

Google today announced that it has stopped scanning the Gmail messages of those with Google Apps for Education accounts.

The search giant has long scanned emails of users in order to serve up targeted ads, but never for Apps for Education users, a Google spokeswoman reiterated.”Prior to turning ads-related scanning off, automated scanning that was done in Gmail was not used to target ads to Education users outside of Gmail or in other Google products,” like YouTube or Search, she said.

Still, Google is moving forward with added precaution: The company has permanently removed all ads scanning in Gmail for Apps for Education, promising that it cannot collect or use student data for advertising purposes.

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,” Google for Education director Bram Bout wrote in a blog post. “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.”

For more details about the changes, join a Hangout on Air tomorrow at noon Eastern, where Bout and Product Management for Docs and Drive director Jonathan Rochelle will discuss the new terms and answer any questions. Google will eventually extend the same courtesy to business, government, and legacy users.

This move comes after the search giant fought charges that its Gmail scanning violates U.S. wiretap laws. Last month, a California judge ruled that the various lawsuits making these claims could not be merged into a larger class-action suit, which was effectively a win for Google.

But as Education Week pointed out, the practice within Google Apps for Education might violate the Education Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects educational records.

Earlier this month, Google updated its terms of service to specify how its automatic email scanning technology works. According to the revised document, Google software examines incoming and outgoing messages to create targeted ads.

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