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Mass. Bill Would Put Privacy Squeeze on Cloud Apps For Schools 95

Posted by timothy
from the rent-seeker-vs.-rent-seeker dept.
An anonymous reader points out a story at The Register about a Microsoft-backed bill proposed by Massachusetts state representative Carlo Basil which seems aimed directly at Google's cloud apps. The bill, if it should be enacted, would require that "[a]ny person who provides a cloud computing service to an educational institution operating within the State shall process data of a student enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade for the sole purpose of providing the cloud computing service to the educational institution and shall not process such data for any commercial purpose, including but not limited to advertising purposes that benefit the cloud computing service provider."
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Mass. Bill Would Put Privacy Squeeze on Cloud Apps For Schools

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  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @07:33AM (#43124929)
    Corporations have always bought the laws they want in their favor. That's what lobbying [wikipedia.org] is all about. Every now and then, the companies are even caught giving the legislators the actual text of the laws which they would like passed:
    Koch, Exxon Mobil Among Corporations Helping Write State Laws ... [bloomberg.com]

    Microsoft used to not spend any money on political campaigns. Then, after a while, they figured out enough to post political contributions on both sides and then to hire a lobbyist to advocate for them.

    Microsoft's budget for political lobbying exceeded that of Enron [zdnet.com]

    Another older example

    Microsoft's new push in Washington - CNET News http://news.cnet.com/2010-1071_3-1021938.html [cnet.com]

    Jun 30, 2003 Â CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh explains why the software maker has quietly given marching orders to its phalanx of lobbyists to get the government to ...

    Of course, Google couldn't be left behind [slashdot.org]

    Jan 26, 2010 -- Google quickly gaining on Microsoft in lobbying spending. Search giant is quickly catching up to Redmond as a tech power to be reckoned with in Washington ...

    It's not as if this is anything new. Industry boards have long written laws: not just outlines, not just drafts, but the entire full set and exact wording just as they want it to be. That you can search for yourself. There are thousands of examples of that.

    • correction to my borked link above, that fourth link really should be : http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-10441374-75.html [cnet.com]
      .
      I don't know how that "politics.slashdot.org/" snuck in front of that URL.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Why is corporate lobbying legal anyway?

      • re: Why is corporate lobbying legal anyway?

        Someone lobbied to pass a law to make lobbying legal? ;>)
        .
        Srsly, if you look up the laws limiting when former legislators are forbidden to work for private entities immediately after leaving office, you'll see a surge of these laws occurring right after some big ethics scandal when someone gets caught doing corporate bidding and then immediately bailing out of their legislative job into a high paying corporate job in an industry they recently regulated.

      • re: Why is corporate lobbying legal anyway?

        Because there's a law passed that made it legal, because someone lobbied to pass a law to make lobbying legal? ;>)
        .
        Srsly, if you look up the laws limiting when former legislators are forbidden to work for private entities immediately after leaving office, you'll see a surge of these laws occurring right after some big ethics scandal when someone gets caught doing corporate bidding and then immediately bailing out of their legislative job into a high payi

      • by DrEldarion (114072) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @11:06AM (#43125575)

        The idea of lobbying, in itself, is not bad. Corporate lobbying, even, isn't necessarily bad. Corporations are just a group of people, and they're having a small set of people bring their concerns before the government representatives. This can be done for very good things, as well - Google lobbies very heavily for a free and open internet, and has been instrumental in things like shutting down SOPA.

        The real problem comes in when less honest entities confuse "lobbying" and "bribing", and when (on purpose or by design) they confuse the lobbyist's interest with the public interest.

        • by cas2000 (148703)

          corporations are NOT "just a group of people", any more than people are "just a group of cells".

          corporations are an artificial life form (that exist within the eco-system of laws) that happen to use people as components in a similar manner to the way people have cells as components- their needs and their objectives are as removed from the needs of their human components as our needs and objectives are as removed from those of our individual cells.

          and, just as us humans adapt our ecosystem to suit ourselves,

        • by jandersen (462034)

          The real problem comes in when less honest entities confuse "lobbying" and "bribing", and when (on purpose or by design) they confuse the lobbyist's interest with the public interest.

          I disagree - the real problem is about separation of powers. Just like the Police should not be aloowed to write the laws they enforce, the people who exert power in the market should not be allowed to write the laws that regulate their acitivities, and for the very same reasons: such a mixing together of interests can and will be abused. As we see on an ongoing basis. I am well aware that any legislature has a legitimate need to consult the business community, but corporate lobbying goes far beyond consult

      • by schwit1 (797399)

        It's not just corporations. California and Illinois financial situation is solely because of state employee unions lobbying.for huge pensions and being able to retire at an early age.

        • by taz346 (2715665)
          That's not really true. In Illinois' case there is a pension problem because for the past 20 years state government, under both Democratic and Republican governors, has balanced the budget by repeatedly deferring annual payments into the pension funds. So while they've collected money from employees for pensions, they've used much of it instead to pay general operating costs and keep taxes down (the state only has a 3-percent income tax). They've also refused to make local school systems contribute anything
          • More like 40 years. Illinois was only 15% funded back in 1972 when my dad was engineering prof at UIUC. Its the reason why he quit and went into private industry, where he did *much* better working for defense contractors.

      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        Who benefits from it?
        Who writes laws?

        2+2=4

    • In principle this kind of lobbying is OK. Then it's the job of the politicians to accept only the proposals that are beneficial for the society, and to dismiss anything else. This particular proposal certainly belongs to the latter category, because it's just destructively aimed at competition. Even without that law schools are free not to use Google docs.
  • by Anubis350 (772791) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @07:41AM (#43124941)
    Google will simply stop offering free GApps for Education for Massachusetts Schools and Non-Profits. The reason the service is free is google is counting on that data.

    Disclaimer: I am the admin for a small HS and am quite happy with our Google Apps right now
    • Google will simply stop offering free GApps for Education for Massachusetts Schools and Non-Profits. The reason the service is free is google is counting on that data. Disclaimer: I am the admin for a small HS and am quite happy with our Google Apps right now

      I suppose I should have said "stated intent". The intent is exactly that as far as MS is concerned

    • by Enforcer-99 (1407855) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @08:28AM (#43125055)
      Actually Google Apps for Education already has an option not to show ads - in fact I bet 100% of Google Apps for Education domains do this already so Google does not rely on advertising for these domains as it is. GAE is about mind-share and getting them Google-ized early - just like Microsoft has done for decades.
      • Even if they aren't showing ads, they're still harvesting information to build a profile of the students. How valuable is it to Google that by the time someone becomes old enough to have a job and start earning, they already have 10+ years of profiling data to know exactly what to market to them?
    • by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @08:28AM (#43125057)

      Google will simply stop offering free GApps for Education for Massachusetts Schools and Non-Profits. The reason the service is free is google is counting on that data.

      Not quite. Google Apps for Non-Profits does show ads, yes, but Google Apps for Education does not show advertisements to students or staff (it's like Google Apps Premier in that regards, except for the increase in quota). Google also goes farther than the bill, because University accounts are free of ads (not just K-12 accounts). Google only asks that once the students become alumni, that the ads get turned on by the University staff. It has always been that way since the very beginning of Google Apps.

      May be, this bill is targeted at the Kindle (or perhaps the iPad). I believe these two have made more inroads into the K-12 market than Google Apps anyway.

      1.4 Ads.
      a. Default. The default setting for the Services is one that does not allow Google to serve Ads. Customer may change this setting in the Admin Console, which constitutes Customer’s authorization for Google to serve Ads. If Customer enables the serving of Ads, it may revert to the default setting at any time and Google will cease serving Ads.
      b. Selectively Showing Ads. Notwithstanding Section 1.4(a), if Customer separates different classifications of End Users by domain or Google provides the capability for Customer to show Ads only to particular sets of End Users within the same domain, then Customer must enable the serving of Ads to End Users who are alumni.
      c. Selectively Showing Ads. If Customer chooses to separate different classifications of End Users by domain, then Customer must enable the serving of Ads to Alumni. If Google provides the capability for Customer to show Ads only to particular sets of End Users, then Customer must enable Google's serving of Ads to End Users who are not Students or Staff. http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/terms/education_terms.html [google.com]

      • Not quite. Google Apps for Non-Profits does show ads, yes, but Google Apps for Education does not show advertisements to students or staff

        It's not just about showing ads, it's about spying on your data to make ads (to you or to others) more effective.

        Without showing you ads, they could collect your data and build a thick dossier on you, and sell it to others or save it for later for when you use one of their ad-based services. Or they could collect your data for general research ("people who mention th

    • by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @08:34AM (#43125081)

      The problem is, in the free market you can choose whether getting free cloud services is worth your privacy or not. But the kids didn't have a say in this matter, in fact I bet you didn't even ask them whether they agree with you forwarding their data to a third party.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Google will simply stop offering free GApps for Education for Massachusetts Schools and Non-Profits.

      That's OK.

    • Google will simply stop offering free GApps for Education for Massachusetts Schools and Non-Profits.

      Which is, of course, exactly the outcome Microsoft is looking for.

    • by Mikkeles (698461)

      I am the admin for a small HS and am quite happy with our Google Apps right now

      Maybe that's because it's your students', rather than your, personal information that's being sold by Google.

      • by Anubis350 (772791)
        I absolutely guarantee you that all the students have personal gmail accounts, it was one of my factors in initially moving to GApps actually: the students wanted to use them and I'd rather school docs and such were under the school's purview to some extent. Their personal information is far more compromised by their gmail/youtube accounts than by the accounts that I have given a *lecture* to them about having little expectation of privacy on (the fun "I can and will give your email records to the LEA if yo
    • I think I read this maxim on /. first: "If you aren't paying for the product, you ARE the product" (this is from memory, pardon me if I misquoted it).

      If it were up to me, there would be no commercial student-targeted advertising in parts of school buildings where students are required to be or at any school-managed facility where students are required to be present or within plain view of any part of any school-managed facility where students are required to be present. Advertising in teachers' lounges and

  • Several thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 09, 2013 @07:52AM (#43124971)
    1) that ALL data format should be easily 100% convertible to open formats.
    2) that all companies shall be prevented from selling/giving OSs or educational software at lower than their normal price so as to lock-in students.
    3)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile we in Europe laugh, because that's what our corporations by law are allowed only. Process data for the sole purpose it was collected for. No analysis whatsoever afterwards.

  • Coincidentally, just yesterday I got a pointer to this blog entry [berkeley.edu] by a guy at the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, noting that while cloud apps are great and useful and all that, cloud app providers are poorly prepared to deal with the academic sector's privacy concerns and needs (some of which may be demanded of the academic sector by law).

    I believe Berkeley is in the midst of switching to Google Apps.

  • the age of 13 (including 13), why should Google with the Cloud App stuff?

    I mean all the way until 12th grade is a bit crazy as the kids are 17-18 years old typically by that point. They should find a grade where kids aren't (maybe without the very rare exception) 13 or under anymore, and make that the cut off.

    If websites can't collect data on kids 13 and under it shouldn't be any different for Microsoft, Google, whoever's cloud service within the school. Older than that, well.. if Facebook can then they sho

  • I concur with the position that our laws should not be authored by corporations and should not be passed using the influence of campaign financing.

    That being said, I support the bill. As a teacher, if I were to ask my students to take a survey in class, then aggregate the data and sell the results to a corporation eager to know how to market to that age group, I would be fired. Then why should a school condone corporations like Google or Facebook to permit the same activity? As a parent, I would be very upset to know that schools are allowing corporations to harvest marketing data while at school. And as a taxpayer, I want as little corporate involvement in our public school as possible.

    I just wish Microsoft wasn't involved. Especially given all the illegal acts Microsoft has committed over the last two decades, it's almost the pot calling the kettle black.

  • First off all, it would strike at MS' Office 360 as well. Google could simply not collect data when the service is used at school. The law appears only to apply to use under the educational institutions guise; not elsewhere. Use at home? You'r fair game, and not using any data from use at school is simply a cost of capturing your eyeballs and getting used to Google's services. Nor does the law prevent Google from providing data to the schools for their use.
  • When corporations write and enforce your laws?

    • by crutchy (1949900)

      at least corporations are responsible to their customers... piss the customer off too much and the share price drops and you lose

      on the other hand, governments are responsible to nobody and all over the world they are going crazy with power (but particularly in the united states)

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @12:18PM (#43125909)

    Bill Gates funds massive school child database

    New Gates-funded database keeps addresses and social security numbers of millions of children, so don’t worry

    But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.

    In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion

    http://dailycaller.com/2013/03/04/new-gates-funded-database-keeps-addresses-and-social-security-numbers-of-millions-of-children-so-dont-worry/

    From PJ at Groklaw:

    And Microsoft is pushing for a law in Massachusetts that would prevent Google from being used for educational use, based on alleged and vague claims of conceivable privacy issues, when Google does *not* turn on ads for kids? Are they kidding?! What hypocrisy. And what interesting timing.

    • by Kataire (592050)
      I agree with the idea of the law. At that age, it's appropriate for educators to have that kind of information in order to get feedback and drive the education process. I would not say the same for marketers, who would also love to help drive the education process in more profitable ways.
    • Not really hypocrisy. The Gates Foundation is a nonprofit, with bylaws written to require the termination of its existence after Bill and Melinda are dead. A law that forbids for-profit use of such data does not conflict with the idea of accumulating the data in the first place.

      One of the stated goals of the Gates Foundation is the improvement of education, and the actions of the Foundation since founding have often aligned with that goal. There's an argument to be made that a database of educational out

    • No mention on slashdot about the student database that Bill Gates is funding. This is becoming normal behavior for slashdot.

      It's sad, I can remember when slashdot was a refreshing oasis from all MS propaganda on other sites.

      Ah well, at there is Groklaw.

      • by cheros (223479)

        I left Groklaw when I noticed a strong bias, which to me does equate a "search for truth" but "picking facts selectively". Groklaw's default stance appears to be that anything Google does is excusable (which isn't), and anything Microsoft does is bad (which is mostly correct, but not always). Groklaw hasn't quite worked out yet that Google appears to make most of its revenue in the US and abroad by wilfully breaking laws (the statements made by Google when it is caught only serves to make it clear that Go

        • by crutchy (1949900)

          i don't think that there has been any attempts by groklaw to hide bias against corporate interests

          groklaw is informative, but it also helps to serve the interests of the little foss developers

          for example, groklaw played a part in the demise of sco

  • "In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school â" even homework completion".... link [reuters.com]
  • And instead of copying the manifestly good idea of making money by giving away software services that allow you to collect valuable data, they try to make that business model illegal.

  • www.malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H331

    We always thought they were malicious.

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