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Mississippi Attorney General Hood Sues Google for Alleged Student-Data Mining

February 20, 2017 by Nicole R. Woods, Partner
Mississippi Attorney General Hood Sues Google for Alleged Student-Data Mining
The latest development in the feud between Google and Mississippi’s Attorney General, Jim Hood—a history that can only be described as soap-operatic—is a newly filed lawsuit by Hood against the tech giant. The tumultuous relationship began in 2014 when Hood’s office issued a lengthy subpoena to Google requesting documents and other information related to any “dangerous content” hosted on Google’s networks, under the guise of battling online illicit drug sales. However, shortly after the subpoena was served, the Sony hack occurred, which divulged vast amount of Sony data and emails to the public. Found in the hacked emails were communications that indicated that the Motion Picture Association of America was both instigating and bankrolling Hood’s subpoena in an attempt to crack down on piracy.
Fast-forward a few years, after the subpoena was fiercely litigated and eventually withdrawn, Hood is once again ready to do battle with Google. This time, however, Hood is alleging that Google is improperly and illegally mining personal and search-history information of Mississippi’s public school students. The complaint alleges that Google, through its “G-Suite for Education,” which are web-based tools that students and teachers can use to collaborate with each other, has failed to live up to its privacy pledge not to gather information from G-Suite users.
The problem allegedly arises when a student signs into the G-Suite apps using their student account and then visits non-G-Suite sites or when a student syncs their G-Suite account across any internet-connected device that uses a Google login—the list of which is growing every day thanks to the Internet of Things. Hood claims that non-G-Suite data from the other sites and/or devices is being maintained by Google in violation of the privacy pledge. Both Google and the Future of Privacy Form—the third-party that helped create the pledge that Google is accused of violating—maintain that Google is not in violation of the G-Suite privacy pledge because there are no ads in the G-Suite for Education, which is the true privacy issue.
Given the contentious history between Hood and Google and the possible privacy implications of the outcome, this litigation is one to watch. A link to Hood’s litigation announcement, which contains a copy of the complaint, can be found here.

For more information on this case, contact Nicole Woods or another member of our Data Security and Privacy team.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances. 

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