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UG investigation: privacy issues with Google G Suite for Education

UG investigation shows:

Privacy issues with Google G Suite for Education

An investigation into Google G Suite for Education by the UG and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences shows that Google might not be treating our data as securely as initially thought. Educational IT organisations SURF and SIVON are in talks with Google to solve the issues.
3 March om 11:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 March 2021
om 11:27 uur.
March 3 at 11:27 AM.
Last modified on March 3, 2021
at 11:27 AM.

Door Christien Boomsma

3 March om 11:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 March 2021
om 11:27 uur.

By Christien Boomsma

March 3 at 11:27 AM.
Last modified on March 3, 2021
at 11:27 AM.

Christien Boomsma

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
Volledig bio

Achtergrondcoördinator en wetenschapsredacteur
Full bio

Back 2013, the UG forewent its own software and email client in favour of the cheaper Google G Suite for Education. Even then, many researchers warned of privacy issues, fearing that their data would not be secure. Even the UG’s legal department warned the board of directors about the Patriot Act, which forces American corporations to provide the government access to their servers.

It now turns out they were right. The investigation in question was a so-called Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA). It assesses how a corporation collects data, what it does with that data, and what kind of risks this involves. The ministry of Justice and Security conducted a DPIA of Google’s Enterprise version. The educational institutes investigated their own G Suite for Education.  

Metadata

The assessment showed that especially the way in which the tech giant collects metadata poses a problem. Google tracks the time people are logged into its systems, the pages they visit, and the search terms they use. In its privacy terms, Google says that only they are allowed to change the terms for how to use this data. 

‘Educational institutes that use Google G Suite for Education [have] no or insufficient control over what happens to this data’, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven wrote in a letter to the Lower House on Monday.

In talks

The government went to the Dutch Data Protection Authority for a ‘preliminary consult’ about its own package. Educational institutes don’t have this luxury, as they’ve been working with Google G Suite for Education for much longer. SIVON and SURF are in talks with Google to tackle the issue. The government will also talk to the corporation on behalf of the educational institutes.

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