On December 1, 2015, yes just 2 days ago as of this post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Google for collecting and data mining school children’s personal information. This also included their Internet searches, key words and phrases they used, the results they clicked on, videos they looked for and watched on YouTube, and their saved passwords.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Spying on Students Campaign

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was founded in 1990. In 1990 the Internet had existed for a mere 7 years and only 3 million people worldwide had access. EFF understood that with the developing technology would come legal challenges for free speech, illegal surveillance, and other rights and freedoms.

EFF launched its “Spying on Students” campaign on the same day that it filed its complaint against Google with the FTC. The campaign was created to raise awareness about the privacy risks of school-supplied electronic devices and software.

One-to-One Laptop Program

February 12, 1990 in Melbourne, Australia, the first one-to-one laptop program was launched. It has had varying degrees of success depending on who’s report you read. Back then it was DOS based and truly used within the confines of traditional education. No one, that we know of, was using these computers to keep eyes on the students. The students understood the value of this tool. The teachers understood the value of this tool. It is here to stay.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Files Complaint with FTC

So fast forward to December 1, 2015. EFF launches its “Spying on Students” campaign and files a complaint with the FTC. Google is in the business of selling hardware and software. The hardware in question is Google’s Chromebook. A unique breed of laptop. Its operating system (OS) is Google Chrome. It is designed to be used primarily while connected to the internet. Most apps and documents on this laptop live in the cloud.

Chromebooks Are Cost Effective

Because Chromebooks don’t have a lot of onboard memory, they are cost effective for schools on tight budgets. Google’s software for these computers consists of Google Apps for Education (GAFE). This is a suite of educational cloud-based software used in many schools. This software is designed for students as young as kindergarten. This educational cloud-based software is offered free to schools and learning institutions. Another reason why educational institutions would choose Google software.

Google Is a Key Player in Internet Searches

So why would Google be interested in students’ Internet searches? Why would Google want to drill down into their use to determine search words and phrases? Why would Google care about the videos they are seeking out and watching?

Google is a business. They keep their doors open by turning a profit. And like any good business Google analyzes the data that flows through their doors to keep customers happy and profits up.

Google Works to Level the Playing Field

Google sets the standard for Internet data analysis. They work hard to try and give every business a level playing field based upon what they learn.

Nearly every business represented on the Internet makes use of Google Analytics. They track peoples’ use of search terms and phrases specific to the services and/or products they offer. Businesses can target specific search terms and shoot out an advertisement to a searcher before they ever visit the businesses website.

Pay Per Click Prices Are Set by Word Use in Searches

Google uses this information to set prices for search words – pay per click. This information creates profits for Google. Google is in the business of giving searchers what they want and making a profit for themselves. If they don’t make money, they go out of business and searchers lose a valuable tool.

Did Google Use Students as Guinea Pigs

So where did Google go wrong in all of this. EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo said, “Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit center. If Google wants to use students’ data to improve Google products, then it needs to get express consent from parents.”

Signing the Student Privacy Pledge

Google signed the Student Privacy Pledge, which says in part that they will not collect, maintain, use or share student personal information beyond that for authorized education/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student. It goes further to state that they, Google, will clearly disclose in contracts or privacy policies the types of student personal information they maintain.

Google was collecting information about search terms, search phrases, videos watched and students’ passwords. They were clearly using this information they way that they use all of the information that is in our analytics. It is marketing research.

Google Entered Into a Contract

When Google signed The Student Privacy Pledge they entered into a contractual relationship with each and every institution of learning and every student who was given a Chromebook laptop with Google Apps for Education. Some schools require students to use Chromebooks and provide them.

Google is not sitting in front of the parents or student at the time the computer is given to the student, so they are not obtaining permission from parents or student for data collection. When they signed the privacy pledge they publically said that they would not “collect, maintain, use or share student personal information.” In doing so, Google violated FTC rules against unfair and deceptive business practices. Or so EFF’s attorneys believe.

Administrative Settings Allow for Tracking Beyond the School Provided Chromebook

We also learned from EFF’s filing that the administrative settings Google provides to schools allow a student’s personal information to be shared with third-party websites. This is a very clear violation of the Student Privacy Pledge and would fall within unfair and deceptive business practices.

This tracking of student’s search habits extends to home computers, personal laptops or smartphones. Any piece of equipment that a student uses to access their Google account will track them.

This might be acceptable if Google were using this to improve education. If by understanding how students use search terms to find information can improve the search process, then Google might be providing a valuable service to students. Google, after all, knows how to take a confusing search term, like “raw cooking” and dish up a plethora of websites form the history of the Paleo diet to the benefits of cooking with low heat.

However, Google signed the Student Privacy Pledge. Whether they had noble intentions to use this data gathering for scholastic betterment is not the issue. They were not transparent. They did not follow the rules outlined in the pledge that they signed.

Every business needs to know and understand the contracts into which they enter. Working with a diligent law firm to ensure that your business understands your contractual obligations is critical. A good law firm should be an integral part of every business team.

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Related Publications

Timnit Gebru, a technical co-lead of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team, was fired in early December after an internal battle over a research paper she published focused on ethical problems with the kind of artificial intelligence systems used to understand human language, including the one that powers Google search. Gebru has been vocal about her…

December 23, 2020

Because California non-compete laws favor the employee and Washington State laws favor the employer, WA-based Amazon seeks to limit ex-employee’s new role at Google in CA. Read article here >> https://pasha.bz/amazon-non-compete-clause

June 19, 2020

With more than half of its regular workforce not receiving benefits as “contract employees,” Google opens itself up to scrutiny and a potential lawsuit. https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/google-contractors-employees-legal-risks-misclassification-california-law.html

June 6, 2020

Nasir and Matt discuss the life cycle of a negative online review. They talk about how businesses should properly respond, how to determine if the review is defamatory, the options available to seek removal of the review, how to identify anonymous reviewers, whether businesses can require clients to agree not to write negative reviews, and…

June 28, 2017

If you have been paying attention to the news recently, then you will probably have seen a rise in the topic of driverless cars. For evidence, look at some of the headlines that I have seen in the last week or so: From The Washington Post: Apple’s big bet on China is also a bet…

May 17, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about an age discrimination lawsuitfiled by a 64 year old software engineer against Google and whether H&M will be subject to age discrimination claims for targeting millennials asnew hires.

May 20, 2015

On October 1, Google began requiring all developers of paid apps or apps with in-app purchases (IAPs) to post a physical address to appear on the details page, visible to all users of Google Play. Hobbyists and indie developers, who likely have no physical address other than home, were horrified by the privacy risks. Much…

October 7, 2014

The guys talk about Yelp’s complaints that Google is altering search results. They also answer, “In the Belford example and those working in “boiler rooms” they are convicted of using unfair selling tactics but what does that mean? Do salesmen not use unfair sales tactics when they psychoanalyze the client and use that to their…

July 16, 2014

On May 13, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that individuals have the “right to be forgotten,” meaning they have the right to ask Google to remove information about them from its search index.  A 1972 amendment to the California Constitution declares that the right to privacy is inalienable.   So, should we expect…

May 27, 2014

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April 23, 2014

Nasir and Matt talk about Google’s new class of stock that has no voting rights, as well as how to bring on investors without losing equity in the company.

April 14, 2014

This week Nasir and Matt discuss the legalities of Google’s virtual library, the lawsuit brought by Yelp reviewers, and watching porn in the workplace.  They also discuss the IRS shifting its audit focus with the help of Brad Gastineau of Gatto, Pope & Walwick, LLP.  Nasir and Matt also answer questions about employees making special…

November 18, 2013
Legally Sound Smart Business cover art

Legally Sound Smart Business

A business podcast with a legal twist

Legally Sound Smart Business is a podcast by Pasha Law PC covering different topics in business advice and news with a legal twist with attorneys Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub.
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Latest Episodes

October 12, 2021

In our latest episode, Nasir and Matt are covering the legal issues on Social Media. The average person spends most of their day on social media, whether they are scrolling for hours or publishing their own content. However, just because you publish your own content on Instagram does not equate to you owning that image….

September 28, 2021

What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and when do I need one? In this episode, Nasir and Matt shares why you need to use Non-Disclosure Agreements, basic facts about NDA’s, and discuss about the infamous Jenner-Woods story. Having the right Non-Disclosure Agreement in place not only protects you and your business, but it also makes the…

July 14, 2021

Through a five-round championship bout, Matt travels to Texas from California to determine which state is better for business. Will it be a knockout with a clear winner or will it go to the scorecards?

June 16, 2021

Covered in this episode of Legally Sound Smart Business are some typical business mistakes blunders small businesses often make and how to avoid them. Blunder #1: Copying and pasting agreements It may sound like a good idea at the time, but this blunder comes with hidden pitfalls. Having an attorney draft terms that are specific…

February 4, 2021

How you terminate an employee can make the difference between a graceful transition to avoidable negative outcomes like a dramatic exit or even a lawsuit. We gathered a panel of experts and asked them – is there a “right way” to fire an employee? We would like to thank our guests for this episode: Amr…

December 2, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned nearly every aspect of life on its head, and that certainly holds true for the business world. In this episode, Matt and Nasir explain how the early days of the pandemic felt like the Wild West and how the shifting legal playing field left a lot open to interpretation and…

November 16, 2020

After plenty of ups and downs, our buyer has finally closed on the purchase of their business. While we’re marking this down in the ‘wins’ column, it never hurts to review the game tape. In this final episode, our hosts, Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha, return to the deal almost a year later to reflect…

September 15, 2020

The ink is drying on the signature line and things are looking great for our buyer. After so much hard work, the finish line is in sight and the cheering within ear shot.   Though the landlord is still serving friction, things seem safe to move forward and for now, our buyer will be keeping…

July 31, 2020

Though things are coming along well, the journey would not be interesting if it was purely smooth sailing. After our buyer opens escrow, they are forced to push the closing date back when suddenly a letter from an attorney was received claiming the business, we are buying has a trade mark on the name!  Now…

June 12, 2020

With frustration at an all-time high and professionalism at an all-time low, our friend the Buyer has “had it” with the Seller and quite frankly their lack of knowledge. At present our Buyer is rightfully concerned that the latest misstep from our loose-lipped Seller will threaten not only the entire operation of the businesses but…

May 11, 2020

As we go deeper into the buying process, we start to uncover more challenges from our seller and encounter some of the wrenches they are tossing our way. When we last left off in episode three our team was knee deep in due diligence for our buyer, had already penned and signed the Letter of…

April 4, 2020

One word–interloper! When a new mysterious broker enters the transaction and starts to kick up dust, Nasir and Matt take the reins. The seller signed off on the letter of intent (see episode 2), yet this “business broker” serves only friction and challenges by refusing to send financials, whilst demanding more of a firm commitment…

April 4, 2020

Just as most stories and deals start out, everyone is optimistic, idealistic and full of hope for clear skies. It’s a perfect outlook with a perfect setup for the ups and downs yet to come. Peek further behind the curtain and into the first steps of buying a business: the letter of intent. After the…

April 4, 2020

When a savvy buyer hears opportunity knocking to purchase a prime positioned business, she decides not to go it alone and taps in the professionals to help navigate what could potentially be a fruitful acquisition. “Behind the Buy” is a truly rare and exclusive peak into the actual process, dangers, pitfalls and achievements, that can…

August 7, 2019

GrubHub is subject to two “matters of controversy” that have likely become common knowledge to business owners: “fake” orders and unfriendly microsites.

May 28, 2019

In this podcast episode, Matt and Nasir breakdown the legal issues of the subscription industry’s business on the internet. Resources A good 50-state survey for data breach notifications as of July 2018. California Auto-Renewal Law (July 2018) Privacy Policies Law by State Why Users of Ashley Madison May Not Sue for Data Breach [e210] Ultimate…

March 12, 2019

In recording this episode’s topic on the business buying process, Matt’s metaphor, in comparing the process to getting married probably went too far, but they do resemble one another. Listen to the episode for legal advice on buying a business.

December 3, 2018

Nasir and Matt return to discuss the different options available to companies looking to raise funds through general solicitation and crowdfunding. They discuss the rules associated with the various offerings under SEC regulations and state laws, as well as more informal arrangements. The two also discuss the intriguing story about a couple who raised over…

July 24, 2018

Flight Sim Labs, a software add-on creator for flight simulators, stepped into a PR disaster and possibly some substantial legal issues when it allegedly included a Trojan horse of sorts as malware to combat pirating of its $100 Airbus A320 software. The hidden test.exe file triggered anti-virus software for good reason as it was actually…

April 17, 2018

Attorneys Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha examine Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings about the state of Facebook. The two also discuss Cambridge Analytica and the series of events that led to the congressional hearings, the former and current versions of Facebook’s Terms of Service, and how businesses should be handling data privacy. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR:…

March 10, 2018

The Trump presidency has led to a major increase in ICE immigration enforcement. It’s critical for business owners to both comply with and know their rights when it comes to an ICE audit or raid. Nasir, Matt, and Pasha Law attorney Karen McConville discuss how businesses can prepare for potential ICE action and how to…

February 5, 2018

New years always bring new laws. Effective January 1, 2018, California has made general contractors jointly liable for the unpaid wages, fringe benefits, and other benefit payments of a subcontractor. Nasir and Matt discuss who the new law applies to and how this affects all tiers in the general contractor-subcontractor relationship. Click here to learn…

January 2, 2018

With a seemingly endless amount of new mattress options becoming available, it is unsurprising that the market has become increasingly aggressive. As companies invest in more innovative solutions to get in front of customers, review sites, blogs and YouTube videos have moved to the forefront of how customers are deciding on their mattresses and how…

December 7, 2017

In recent months explosive amounts of high profile allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and varying acts of inappropriate behavior have transcended every sector of our professional world. With a deluge from Hollywood and politics, and the private workforce, accusations have inundated our feeds and mass media. This harassment watershed has not only been felt within…

November 16, 2017

If you are not familiar with the EB-5 program started in 1990 to give green cards to certain qualified investors in the United States, then you may not have been alone a few years ago. Currently, the EB-5 program has since exploded since its inception and now hits its quotas consistently each year. The program…

October 10, 2017

Government requests come in multiple forms. They can come in as requests for client information or even in the form of investigating your company or your employees. Requests for Client Information General Rule to Follow Without understanding the nuances of criminal and constitutional law and having to cite Supreme Court cases, any government requests for…

August 24, 2017

Nasir and Matt suit up to talk about everything pertaining to employee dress codes. They discuss the Federal laws that govern many rules for employers, as well as state specific nuances in California and other states. The two also emphasize the difficulty in identifyingreligious expression in dress and appearance, how gender-related dress codes have evolved…

June 28, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the life cycle of a negative online review. They talk about how businesses should properly respond, how to determine if the review is defamatory, the options available to seek removal of the review, how to identify anonymous reviewers, whether businesses can require clients to agree not to write negative reviews, and…

June 7, 2017

On this episode of the Ultimate Legal Breakdown, Nasir and Mattbreak down social media marketing withguests Tyler Sickmeyer and Kyle Weberof Fidelitas Development. They first discuss contests and promotionsand talk about where social media promotions can go wrong,when businesses are actually running an illegal lottery, and the importance of a soundterms and conditions. Next, they…

April 3, 2017

On this episode of the Ultimate Legal Breakdown, Nasir and Matt go in depth with the subscription box business. They discuss where subscription box companies have gone wrong(4:30), the importance of a specifically tailored terms and conditions(6:30), how to structure return policies (11:45), product liability concerns (14:45),the offensive and defensive side of intellectual property (19:00),…

February 1, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the suit against Apple that resultedfrom a car crashed caused by the use of FaceTime while driving. They also discuss howforeseeable use of apps can increase liability for companies. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR: Hi and welcome to Legally Sound Smart Business! I’m Nasir Pasha. MATT: And I’m Matt Staub. Two attorneys…

January 5, 2017

The guys kick in the new year by first discussing Cinnabon’s portrayal of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia soon after her death, as well as other gaffes involving Prince and David Bowie. They alsotalk about right of publicity claims companies could be held liable for based on using someone’s name or likeness for commercial gain.

December 22, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the recent incidentat a Victoria’s Secret store where the store manager kicked out all black women after one black woman was caught shoplifting. They then each present dueling steps businesses should take when employees are accused of harassment.

December 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt return to talk about the different types of clients that may have outstanding invoices and how businesses can convert unpaid bills to getting paid.

November 10, 2016

After a long break, Nasir and Matt are back to discuss a Milwaukee frozen custard stand that is now revising it’s English only policy for employees. The guys also discuss how similar policies could be grounds for discrimination and what employers can do to revise their policies.

October 6, 2016

The guys discuss the new California law that allows actors to request the removal of their date of birth and birthdays on their IMDB page and why they think the law won’t last. They also discuss how age discrimination claims arise for business owner.

September 29, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the racial discrimination claims surroundingAirbnb and how it’s handled the situation. They also discuss some practical tips for businesses experiencing similar issues.

September 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss whyAmazon seller accounts are getting suspended and banned without notice and how business owners can rectify this situation through a Corrective Action Plan.

August 25, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the accusations surroundingfashion giant Zararipping off the designs of independent artists like Tuesday Bassen and howsmaller companies can battle the industry giants.

August 18, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss Brave Software’s ad replacing technology that has caught the eye of almost every national newspaper and has a potential copyright infringement claim looming. They also welcome digital marketing expert Matt Michaelree to speak on the specifics of what Brave is attempting to do and whether it has the answers moving forward.

July 28, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Gretchen Carlson against Fox CEO Roger Ailes. They also talk aboutthe importance of sexual harassment training and properly handling such allegations in the office.

July 15, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the changes at Starbucks that have led to many disgruntled employees and customers.

June 23, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the criminal charges facing FedExinvolving the alleged transportation of illegal drugs. They also talk about how business owners should address working with customers that may be breaking the law.

June 15, 2016

The guys return after a long break to discuss why Yahoo is auctioning off over 3,000 patents and how this decision will affect the longevity of the company.

May 25, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the increase in the salary thresholdfor exempt employees and how employerscan try to avoid paying overtime as a result.

May 18, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the Baltimore law that makes it very difficult to operate food trucks in the city. They also discuss all the legal restrictions tohaving a food truck.

May 11, 2016

Matt listens to Nasir recap the developing battle in his hometown of Vandalia, Ohio over whether a Dunkin Donuts can move into a location in close proximity to a local favorite donut shop. They then discusswhether the issue is more legal or personal.

May 9, 2016

The guys kick off the week by discussing a Nevada employee who is claiming she was fired for not supporting the Scientology beliefs of her employer.

April 27, 2016

The guys discuss the massive floods in Houston,how employers responded, and why one meteorologist became a local hero. They also discuss the steps businesses should take in preparing for storms outside the workplace.

April 20, 2016

The guys discuss the boycott of Amazon over the products of an unnamed presidential candidate. They also talkabout how a business should handle a boycott and whether it’s possible to exit one unscathed.

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We do all of this without utilizing the traditional billable hour model. You pay for the value we bring, not the time spent on calls, emails, and meetings.

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Pasha Law PC operates in the states of California, Illinois, New York, and Texas.

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