Google Stops Scanning Student Gmail Accounts After Privacy Concerns

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A Google logo is seen at the entrance to the company's offices in Toronto September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

After a recent court case, Google has announced it will stop scanning students' Gmail accounts for various advertising purposes after privacy concerns.

Google had set up the Google Apps for Education, a free service used by more than 30 million students, teachers and administrators, which offer Gmail email accounts, calendars, cloud storage and document creation.

Although Google didn't place any ads within the apps, it continued to scan the contents of students' Gmail accounts, gathering information that could be used to target ads to those who are online in various locations featuring Google's AdSense platform.

A group of Gmail users, including students and other administrators, charged Google in the previous year for breaching the wiretap laws through its practice of continuous email scanning.

During the litigation, Google admitted it is scanning emails sent and received by students who attend schools that use Apps for Education, Education Week magazine reported. Such activity was found violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a law that protects educational records. Microsoft got involved and escalated the matter.

Google confirmed it will no longer scan the Gmail accounts of students using Apps for Education. "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,"  Google for Education Director Bram Bout said in a blog post.

While the practice is being stopped for educational accounts, Google is making similar changes to its Google Apps services for businesses and governments.

Google competes against Microsoft and others in the $8 billion market for software for elementary and secondary schools, according to the Software and Information Industry Association.

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