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Google’s EdTech Data Raises Question for Illinois Privacy Law

April 1, 2022, 5:14 PM

Alphabet Inc.‘s Google must face a lawsuit from parents in Illinois who claim that the company’s educational technology tools invaded their children’s privacy by collecting data on their faces and voices.

The parents who sued Google can continue with their claims as the federal judge overseeing the case tries to tackle a key question about how a state privacy law governing this kind of information applies, according to a Thursday ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

It’s unclear whether the Biometric Information Privacy Act requires parents’ permission for gathering students’ data, Chief U.S. District Judge Sara Darrow wrote in the ruling.

The lawsuit alleges that Google violated the Illinois biometric law by collecting data on children’s faces and voices through ChromeBook laptops used at public schools in the state.

The case is complicated by overlapping laws in this space, including the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Google won its argument that this law, known as COPPA, applies to the privacy concerns at issue, superseding the state biometric law and allowing for dismissal of one of the parents’ claims.

But Darrow wasn’t sure if the same could be said for another state law, the Illinois Student Online Personal Protection Act, which requires edtech providers to enter into agreements with schools concerning student data collection.

If the state biometric law doesn’t require parental permission, then the parents’ claims might be “frustrated entirely,” the judge wrote.

A Google spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.

Lawyers from Perkins Coie LLP represent Google in the case. Lawyers from Lucie Bougher & Associates, Hedin Hall LLP, and Bursor & Fisher P.A. represent the parents suing Google.

The case is Farwell v. Google LLC, C.D. Ill., No. 1:21-cv-1122, order 3/31/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com