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Google Turns Off Ad Scanning in Apps for Education Permanently
Google today revealed changes to its Apps for Education policies that include permanently disabling scanning in Gmail for its 30 million Apps for Education users and permanently disabling the ability to display ads.
Prior to this move, ads in Google Apps for Education were disabled by default. Only an administrator could enable ads, and it's unclear whether any school IT administrators had ever done so or why they would choose to do so. With the new policy, it will be impossible for them to do so.
The policy change follows a furor that erupted recently on the heels of a class action lawsuit in which it was revealed that the underlying scanning technology used in Gmail was also present in the Apps for Education version of Gmail, though there was never a claim that Google actually mined or even stored any data without permission for purposes other than checking for viruses or spam or conducting other common e-mail services, such as spell checking. Some of the claims made in the reporting of the lawsuit conflated Google's privacy policies with IT administrators' interpretations of those policies and also conflated higher education users (primarily adults) with K-12 users (primarily minors) — all of which added fuel to the fire that led to Google's formal declaration today, following months of silence on the issue.
The change was formally revealed in a blog post today from Google for Education Director Bram Bout. "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," he wrote. "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."
In addition, for K-12, when students are signed in, they do not see ads in their Google search results.
According to the new policy:
Google Apps for Education services do not collect or use student data for advertising purposes or create advertising profiles.
Gmail for consumers and Google Apps for Education users runs on the same infrastructure, which helps us deliver high performance, reliability and security to all of our users. However, Google Apps is a separate offering that provides additional security, administrative and archiving controls for education, business and government customers.
Like many email providers, we do scanning in Gmail to keep our customers secure and to improve their product experience. In Gmail for Google Apps for Education, this includes virus and spam protection, spell check, relevant search results and features like Priority Inbox and auto-detection of calendar events. Scanning to provide product features is done on all incoming emails and is 100% automated. We do NOT scan Google Apps for Education emails for advertising purposes.
Additionally, we do not collect or use any information stored in Apps for Education users' Google Drive or Docs (or Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms) for any advertising purposes.
The changes will also ripple out to business, government and general users. Google will be hosting a Google+ chat to address the issue and answer questions regarding the policy changes May 1. More information about the chat can be found on the Google for Education page.
Additional details about student privacy policies can be found on Google's updated privacy page.