Google Classroom is a free web service developed by Google and part of the G Suite for Education to help schools streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students. Students using Google Classroom can view assignments, submit homework, and receive grades from teachers to help them stay on track and organized. The G Suite for Education core services are the heart of Google’s educational offering to schools. The core services include Gmail, Calendar, Classroom, Contacts, Drive, Docs, Groups, Sheets, Sites, Slides, Talk/Hangouts and Vault. More than 50 million students, teachers and administrators in almost every country in the world rely on G Suite to learn and work together.
Google’s terms state they use information to help improve the safety and reliability of the services. G Suite for Education requires users create a Google Account which is created and managed by a school for use by students and educators. Google’s terms state they are fully committed to the security and privacy of users’ data and protecting users and schools from attempts to compromise it. Lastly, Google’s terms state they make contractual commitments in their G Suite for Education agreement and commit to comply with privacy and security standards.
Additionally, other relevant policies used for this evaluation include:
: Promoting responsible use
Evaluating safety takes into consideration best practices that protect a user's physical and emotional health. A higher score (up to 100) means the service provides more transparent and comprehensive responses related to safety.
Google’s terms state they use information to help improve the safety and reliability of the services. This includes detecting, preventing, and responding to fraud, abuse, security risks, and technical issues that could harm Google, its users, or the public. A school may allow students to access Google services such as Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Sites. These services enable students to collaborate with their peers and teachers in real-time, allowing them to share their work, get feedback, and make edits instantaneously. They can be kept private, shared with others (such as a parent, or the entire class), or even made public. When users share information publicly, it may be indexable by search engines, including Google. The services provide users with various options for sharing and removing content.
: Protecting collected information
Evaluating privacy takes into consideration best practices that protect the disclosure of a user's personal information. A higher score (up to 100) means the service provides more transparent and comprehensive responses related to privacy.
G Suite for Education requires users create a Google Account which is created and managed by a school for use by students and educators. The terms state when creating this account, the school may provide Google with certain personal information about its students and educators, which includes a user’s name, email address, and password in most cases, but could also include secondary email, phone, and address if the school chooses to provide that information. Google may also collect personal information directly from users of G Suite for Education accounts, such as telephone number, profile photo or other information they add to a G Suite for Education account.
The G Suite for Education core services include Gmail, Calendar, Classroom, Contacts, Drive, Docs, Forms, Groups, Sheets, Sites, Slides, Talk/Hangouts, Vault, and Chrome Sync. These services are provided to a school under its G Suite for Education agreement. Besides the Core Services, G Suite for Education users may have access to other Google services that are generally available for consumers, such as Google Maps, Blogger, and YouTube. The terms call these “additional services” since they are outside of the G Suite for Education core services.
For G Suite for Education users in primary and secondary (K-12) schools, Google does not collect or use any user personal information (or any information associated with a G Suite for Education Account) for advertising purposes or to create advertising profiles, whether in core services or other google services accessed while using a G Suite for Education account. However, parents and educators should be aware Google may serve ads to G Suite for Education users in the “additional services,” but administrators have the ability to
restrict access to those additional services. Lastly, Google’s terms state they do not assume ownership of any user data in the G Suite core services, and do not share or sell users’ G Suite data to third parties.
: Protecting against unauthorized access
Evaluating security takes into consideration best practices that protect the integrity and confidentiality of a user's data. A higher score (up to 100) means the service provides more transparent and comprehensive responses related to security.
Google’s terms state they are fully committed to the security and privacy of users’ data and protecting users and schools from attempts to compromise it. Google claims its systems are among the industry’s most secure and they vigorously resist any unlawful attempt to access customers’ data. Google’s terms state all facilities used to store and process user data adhere to reasonable security standards no less protective than the security standards at facilities where Google stores and processes its own information of a similar type. Google’s terms further describe it has implemented industry standard systems and procedures to ensure the security and confidentiality of user data, protect against anticipated threats or hazards to the security or integrity of user data, and protect against unauthorized access to or use of user data.
In addition, Google’s data centers use custom hardware running a custom hardened operating system and file system. Each of these systems has been optimized for security and performance. The terms state that because Google controls the entire hardware stack, they are able to quickly respond to any threats or weaknesses that may emerge. Google’s terms specify they will take appropriate steps to ensure compliance with all security measures by its employees, contractors and subprocessors to the extent applicable to their scope of performance, including ensuring that all persons authorized to process personal data have committed themselves to confidentiality or are under an appropriate statutory obligation of confidentiality.
Google’s terms also state they encrypt Gmail (including attachments) and Google Drive data. In addition, user data that is uploaded or created in G Suite services is encrypted at rest. The terms state data is encrypted at several levels. Google forces HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) for all transmissions between users and G Suite services and uses Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) for all its services. Google also encrypts message transmissions with other mail servers using 256-bit Transport Layer Security (TLS) and utilizes 2048 RSA encryption keys for the validation and key exchange phases. This protects message communications when users send and receive emails with external parties also using TLS. PFS requires that the private keys for a connection are not kept in persistent storage. Anyone who breaks a single key can no longer decrypt months’ worth of connections; in fact, not even the server operator is able to retroactively decrypt HTTPS sessions.
Lastly, if Google becomes aware of a unauthorized data breach, the terms state Google will notify users of the data breach promptly and without undue delay, and promptly take reasonable steps to minimize harm and secure user’s data.
: Following statutory laws and regulations
Evaluating compliance takes into consideration best practices of companies that collect personal information from children or students and the legal obligations for the privacy and security of that information. A higher score (up to 100) means the service provides more transparent and comprehensive responses related to compliance.
Google’s terms state they make contractual commitments in their G Suite for Education agreement and commit to comply with privacy and security standards. Whether it’s real time dashboards to verify system performance, ongoing auditing of Google’s processes or sharing the location of Google’s data centers, the terms state Google is committed to providing all its users with utmost transparency.
G Suite for Education’s terms state its core services comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and if user data includes FERPA Education Records, Google will be considered a "School Official" (as that term is used in FERPA and its implementing regulations) and will comply with FERPA. Additionally, if schools allow users under the age of 13 to use G Suite for Education, Google’s terms state they contractually require schools using G Suite for Education to obtain parental consent as required by COPPA. Schools are also required to obtain parental consent for the collection and use of personal information in the “additional products” that the school may choose to use with students allows End Users to access before allowing any End Users under the age of 18 to use those services.
The parents of G Suite for Education users in Primary/Secondary (K-12) schools can access their child’s personal information, export the data, or request that it be deleted through the school administrator. School administrators can provide for parental access, export, and deletion of personal information consistent with the functionality of the services. The terms further state if a parent wishes to stop any further collection or use of the child's information, the parent can request that the administrator use the service controls available to them to limit the child’s access to features or services, or delete the child’s account entirely.
The privacy evaluation is independent from the Common Sense edtech tool review. Privacy evaluations are designed to clarify how a service protects information, which will allow people to make informed decisions before using a tool with students.