12:17 GMT30 November 2020
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    Julian Vigo, an independent scholar and filmmaker who specializes in anthropology, technology and political philosophy, joined Radio Sputnik’s Political Misfits Friday from Italy to warn about the possibility of children’s data being exploited by big tech companies as governments cede control of public education to Google during online learning.

    “Basically, I found out when school started this term that the education was being put contractually in the hands of Google, and I was really not having that. I was extremely upset, I write a lot on tech, and I started to draft a letter to [Italy’s Ministry of Education],” Vigo told show hosts Michelle Witte and Bob Schlehuber.

    “The real problem here is that Google is in business, just like Facebook and Twitter, because they’re selling our user data. They make money off of us. That’s OK when you’re an adult; I don't think it’s very OK when we’re talking about children’s lives and their ability to access learning. That’s something that we should not be allowing,” she added.

    This is not the first time Google has been accused of bringing its technologies into the classroom to track the lives of children. According to a February lawsuit filed by Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s state attorney general, Google has "infiltrated more than half the [US’] primary and secondary schools by offering a 'free' web-based service called G-Suite for Education (‘Google Education’), which gives students access to Google’s Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs and other applications.”

    According to the lawsuit, Google Education is used by more than 80 million educators and students in the US, providing the company access to millions of people’s personal data - children included. That total includes over 25 million students and teachers who use Chromebooks, which run Google’s operating system.

    “The problem is that to get our voices heard is really hard, because this is the paradox. You have parents who don’t want another lockdown, and they’re like, ‘If Google will keep me at work and not crazy at home with the kids, I’ll take it.’ That’s the problem. They’ve gotten us at the worst possible moment, and people will surrender their privacy out of desperation. It’s a real problem,” Vigo explained.

    “Another issue related to this in the EU is all the issues about privacy with the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] that are being violated by signing over children’s information to big tech companies,” Vigo added.

    Under the GDPR, a data privacy and security law passed by the European Union in 2018, organizations that target or collect data related to people in the EU must adhere to certain standards and obligations. Companies that violate the terms can face harsh fines reaching as high as tens of millions of euros.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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