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

timothy posted about a year ago | from the rent-seeker-vs.-rent-seeker dept.

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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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95 comments

Corporations buy laws (5, Interesting)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Corporations buy laws (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43124969)

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.

Re:Corporations buy laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125033)

So much for "do no evil"... or is it "don't be evil"? Maybe it's "we're allowed".

Re:Corporations buy laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125063)

So much for "do no evil"... or is it "don't be evil"? Maybe it's "we're allowed".

It's "do not get caught doing or being evil" ... and if you do, deny deny deny. That goes for both of these companies and many, many others.

Re:Corporations buy laws (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43125163)

Why is corporate lobbying legal anyway?

re: Why is corporate lobbying legal anyway? (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43125201)

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.
.
Then, as the years pass and people forget about the reason and need for these regulations, the currently new batch of state or federal level legislators votes the old restrictions out and give themselves the ability to receive "gifts" from constituents. This is playing out right now in california, and happens over and over again everywhere in this country. Here's an article in the L.A. Times [latimes.com] about this on March 3rd, 2013:

California lawmakers showered with gifts after shelving limits
California legislators disclose gifts received in 2012 - SACRAMENTO â" California lawmakers accepted a trip to Brazil, fine cigars and crystal ducks, among many other gifts from corporations, trade groups and other special ...

I am completely serious about how easy it is to find these types of shenanigans being reported on. It happens in every county and every state in these United States of Shamerica. And probably also in every country in this world.

re: Why is corporate lobbying legal anyway? (0)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43125211)

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 paying corporate job in an industry they recently regulated.
.
Then, as the years pass and people forget about the reason and need for these regulations, the currently new batch of state or federal level legislators votes the old restrictions out and give themselves the ability to receive "gifts" from constituents. This is playing out right now in california, and happens over and over again everywhere in this country. Here's an article in the L.A. Times [latimes.com] about this on March 3rd, 2013:

California lawmakers showered with gifts after shelving limits
California legislators disclose gifts received in 2012 - SACRAMENTO -- California lawmakers accepted a trip to Brazil, fine cigars and crystal ducks, among many other gifts from corporations, trade groups and other special ...

I am completely serious about how easy it is to find these types of shenanigans being reported on. It happens in every county and every state in these United States of Shamerica. And probably also in every country in this world.

Re:Corporations buy laws (3, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Corporations buy laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43127723)

Google lobbies very heavily for a free and open internet

Fighting against SOPA was a good thing, but Google very heavily fought against net neutrality when they released first released Android on Verizon. They made sure that they could offer Verizon customer's faster access to Google services and slow down access to competitors. Google came out publicly in support of net neutrality, just their strange definition of it, which is the opposite of everyone else's.

Re:Corporations buy laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43128493)

Wow, you're either grossly misinformed or that's a bald-faced lie.

There WAS controversy around net neutrality dealing with Google and Verizon, but the only reason Google was willing to deal with anything less than full neutrality in wireless is because:

1) They were using it to guarantee full neutrality in wired services.
2) Wireless services actually have real competition.

Google has never paid to hobble its competitors, that part of your post needs a huge [citation needed].

Re:Corporations buy laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43134185)

Seriously, there are plenty of sites (ahem, Google them) which quote Schmidt saying that net neutrality shouldn't apply to wireless. Even the FCC commissioner commented on Schmidt's statement, disagreeing and stating that net neutrality needs to apply to both wireless and wireline internet access.

Get a fucking life and stop spreading lies to support your fucking spyware vendor of choice.

Re:Corporations buy laws (1)

cas2000 (148703) | about a year ago | (#43129211)

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, corporations do the same - with the same consequences to everything/everyone else (i.e. us) that depends upon or is affected by the legal eco-system... ...and their adaptions of their ecosystem are done with as much concern and care for us humans as we show for an ant colony when we clear ground to build a home.

and the worst thing is that we humans made them and let them loose.

we dont need to be scared of the science-fictional prospect of artificial intelligence like SkyNet - we've already created hostile and inimical artificial "life" and it has escaped our control with real world consequences happening right now that are just as deadly.

Re:Corporations buy laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43135669)

What the hell is wrong with you? You're acting like corporations are some artificially intelligent life form with a mind of their own.

Newsflash: it's people all the way down. Every decision maker is a person, every peon is a person.

Re:Corporations buy laws (1)

rioki (1328185) | about a year ago | (#43136959)

True that, but in the case of corporations it rather is a few (board of directors) or one (CEO/President) that do the thinking and many many do the executing. Few people have disproportional power.

Re:Corporations buy laws (1)

cas2000 (148703) | about a year ago | (#43152429)

yes. the emergent behaviour of complex systems can indeed seem like intelligent life with a mind of it's own. and it really doesn't matter if it really is intelligent life or if it just simulates it - the results are the same.

"professionalism" requires people to suppress their humanity (with specific individuals doing so to a greater or lesser degree) and act in the interests of their employing corporation. the peons keep their heads down and do what they're told...or else they quit or get sacked or get stuck in dead-end roles with little or no autonomy. the consequences of losing your job, your income, and even your medical insurance (in barabaric countries without national health insurance) is an enormous incentive to just follow orders.

also, the hierarchical structure combined with the prevailing cultural mythology of dog-eat-dog greed-is-good and greed-justifies-anything capitalism tends to insure that sociopaths and psychopaths tend to rise to the top and to other positions of power and authority within the organisation.

Re:Corporations buy laws (1)

jandersen (462034) | about a year ago | (#43136201)

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 consultation.

Google lobbying for "a free and open internet" is BS, to be honest. "Freedom" has become such a malleable word that it has next to no real meaning. In most cases it means no more than "I don't want to be held accountable for my actions"; it means "my freedom, and screw you". It is parsecs removed from the "freedom" in "Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood". Just because a big corporation has occasionally done things that are good, it doesn't mean that they are good in any meanful sense of the word. As they say, Hitler was very kind to his dogs.

Re:Corporations buy laws (1)

schwit1 (797399) | about a year ago | (#43126087)

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.

Re:Corporations buy laws (2)

taz346 (2715665) | about a year ago | (#43126571)

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 to fund their pensions - instead the state funds those 100-percent, even though it's the local school boards who decide how much their pensions are. That's been done because if local school districts actually had to contribute to their pension funds, they might have to raise local property taxes, which are also low. And that way of doing things has also been supported by Democrats and Republicans alike. The Democratic state House speaker has been trying to pass legislation requiring local school districts to fund at least a small percentage of their pensions for at least a year now, so they'd have some stake in holding down costs, but Republican state reps and enough Democratic state reps refuse to even consider that. All in all, this way of doing things has left the state's pension system only 45 percent funded. Most economists say pensions should be at least 80 percent funded.

Re:Corporations buy laws (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | about a year ago | (#43127869)

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.

Re:Corporations buy laws (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#43129773)

Who benefits from it?
Who writes laws?

2+2=4

Re:Corporations buy laws (1)

pentadecagon (1926186) | about a year ago | (#43125337)

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.

Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (4, Interesting)

Anubis350 (772791) | about a year ago | (#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

Though... Thinking about it (1)

Anubis350 (772791) | about a year ago | (#43124949)

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

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (5, Informative)

Enforcer-99 (1407855) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125065)

So I guess they'll have to sell user metrics for profit instead? I don't know if I like that idea any better.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43127559)

No, you retard. They don't need to sell or monetize this data. They have more than enough money to subsidize it from their search engine advertising profits, with the hope that these students will choose to use Google services that can be monetized at some point in the future. You know, kind of like how Microsoft provides heavily subsidized prices to students and schools for the same reason.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125207)

As has Apple.. I remember the only computers in my elementary were Apple ]['s of some flavor (I forget which ones I used in 3rd grade to do Logo, but in around 5th grade I remember Oregon Trail on the Apple ][e.

It's no different now as it was then. Apple reduced the costs for schools so they'd buy them, which would lead the kids to wanting one at home. And if the parents DID look into a personal computer, of course the kids would want the Apple because that's what they played with.

Even later in middle school the computer lab was mostly (if not completely.. depended on which lab you were in) filled with Macintosh (I again don't remember which one, I just remember it having two "hidden" buttons on the side and if you pushed the one it would cause a "bomb" error message to come up right away and the only way to get rid of it that we knew of was to reboot.. which means this button got pressed a lot when we had to work in the lab and type papers etc)

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

penix1 (722987) | about a year ago | (#43125487)

It's no different now as it was then. Apple reduced the costs for schools so they'd buy them, which would lead the kids to wanting one at home. And if the parents DID look into a personal computer, of course the kids would want the Apple because that's what they played with.

No, it isn't that they wanted the Apple because that is what they played with. They wanted it to remain compatible with the platform they had at school. It's the same reason Microsoft wants its Office suite used by businesses. The words you are looking for are "lock in".

The situation here is quite different in the internet services provided are pretty much platform independent. The idea being the hardware is less of a focus than the Apple case you cite.

The way I am reading the quote in TFS seems reasonable to me. Others here are claiming it has to do with advertising. That's not only what I read but that the provider of the service, not just Google, can't use the data the kids are saving for data mining purposes whether that mining is used for advertising purposes or not. I don't find this requirement as a bad thing and honestly wish it was made broader to include everyone. Why should Google or any internet services provider be allowed access to data I store on their service whether that access is benign or not? Documents I store there are not the provider's property. This is a major reason a lot of people refuse to use "cloud" services me included. Because once you put it out there there is no retracting it.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a year ago | (#43125521)

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?

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43127251)

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?

It is worthless, because the account was under the school's domain. Unless they keep using an account from their high-school as an adult, google doesn't know its the same person.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43135913)

Even if they aren't showing ads, they're still harvesting information to build a profile of the students.

...according to people on the internet. Of course, it's a profile they can't use because Google Apps for Education doesn't show ads.

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?

Okay, let's set up a competition to build the best email targeting system. I'll use the current email the user is reading. You'll use the user's K-12 history of email about assignments they did and discussions they had and in grade school through high school. If what you are saying is true, your huge thick dossier will do much better. As someone who has worked in web advertising, here's the surprise: The current email with no profile will win, and by a longshot. Current and recent information trumps history, always.

Here's a very simplistic list of what is important for targeting, in order of importance:
(1) What someone is typing right now.
(2) What someone is reading right now.
(3) Everything that person has ever typed or read.

Each one, it turns out is 10x more useful than the one that follows it. Remember when Facebook was about to IPO, and people figured that their ads would be worth more than everyone else's because of the great profiling? Eventually it turned out they weren't because #3 is worth mush less than #1 and #2. That's why their recent redesign is about displaying a mashup of current information and tailoring ads to that (making it more like #2).

If profiling is what makes money, why aren't Facebook, cellphone providers, ISPs, and email the most lucrative businesses? Why did Google and other seach engines make so much money early on -- even when they had no user account state to speak of?

FB and some other of the types of websites in those non-lucrative categories do make decent cash, but they have to drive *huge* volume to do it. Per page they are far worse than search engines and even well-written content pages related to commercial areas (never again wonder why there are a million home-improvement sites).

Unfortunately, what people think about web advertising is more based around years of layered speculation than any reality. It's also based on the dinosaur-age tactics of offline advertising: "you are a 30 year old male so I will try to sell you a truck" versus "I'll try to sell you a car when you are looking at a page about buying cars". The sad thing is, most will probably dismiss this explanation even though it explains things that don't fit into their theory, like FB's post-IPO performance or why web ads are pretty much always tied to the page they show up on.

Oh well, carry on.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43139613)

98% (by our accounting) of all student Gmail accounts are abandoned after they graduate which effectively orphans any data they may have collected.

Is a user profile being maintained? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43126143)

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.

Its not really about whether ads are being displayed or not. Its about whether a user profile is being built behind the scenes in preparation for the day when the child graduates and becomes eligible for ads.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (4, Informative)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year ago | (#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]

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125155)

Displaying ads is not the same thing as processing data gleaned from use of the free service. It only means that they're not showing you their hand after they've played. The bill says in effect they cannot data mine the account in the first place to determine which targeted ad categories to sort the user into. They can still be data mining even if they're not displaying ads. That is the jugular which this bill is going after.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year ago | (#43127015)

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 the Springfield Isotopes in e-mail are more likely to also mention Duff beer").

Show me random ads, I don't care much, I'll just Adblock them anyway. Try to track and spy me, and that's where the problem starts.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43134131)

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 the Springfield Isotopes in e-mail are more likely to also mention Duff beer").

From the perspective of an advertiser, that's not how Google Ad-Words works. Ad-Words is context sensitive to the page itself. Thought, it is true that Google has acquired many other online advertising companies, and probably has many other offerings that I do not know about.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (4, Informative)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125253)

Then it sounds like the new law should prohibit state and local school boards from forcing students to use services that compromise their privacy.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125129)

How happy are you about knowingly compromising the privacy of children? This is the typical view of admins and programmers. It's good for me, so it must be good for you.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43125369)

Kids have no privacy, by law the schools are required to provide PII to the military recruiters so that they can be hounded for years on end and generally lured into something they probably don't want. If I had wanted to be hounded by the US Navy, I could have given them my contact information, it's not like they don't have advertisements or a phone number for various locations to call.

If I'm understanding the excerpt from the law correctly, this only applies to people that only provide cloud services, so MS would be free to do that itself if it so chose because it's not usually just a cloud provider.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

cas2000 (148703) | about a year ago | (#43129245)

i bet you could get the recruiters to stop harassing you if you told them that you'd love to be trained at their expense so you'd have valuable and useful military skills when you join the american communist revolutionary army.

or just ask them if you'd get in trouble for accidentally shooting an officer - you want to know because you're a bit clumsy and accident-prone when it comes to hierarchies and saluting and the like.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#43125233)

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

That's OK.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

AngryNick (891056) | about a year ago | (#43125573)

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

Really? And that's good how? So local IT staff can manage the in-house mail and document management system in their spare time?

School flock to Google to save money on software and administration. How is this different from Microsoft offering free software to teachers and students [dreamspark.com] ?

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year ago | (#43127041)

Really? And that's good how? So local IT staff can manage the in-house mail and document management system in their spare time?

That's good because preserving student's privacy is more important than preserving tax breaks for the wealthy. Restore taxes to their Clinton-era rates, hire more IT staff with the money. Jobs and privacy, a win all around.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

AngryNick (891056) | about a year ago | (#43139797)

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year ago | (#43125289)

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.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | about a year ago | (#43125389)

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.

Re:Result WIll be Opposite of Intent (1)

Anubis350 (772791) | about a year ago | (#43134811)

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 you try to sell drugs using the account we provide" speech I think got their attention adequately :p).

So charge for it already (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#43125815)

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 other areas where students rarely have to be would be okay.

I would grant exceptions for elective courses like football or band so sports stadiums could be ad-funded, provided that those students taking non-elective courses couldn't see the ads from their classrooms and that any students taking mandatory PE classes weren't required to "run around the track" without the ads being covered first.

Extending this to the digital world:

It's impractical to tell the Internet "sorry, if you have ads we can't let you in the door" but aggressive ad-blocking should be used and paying content providers directly in exchange for providing content which is non-ad-based, no-student-data-collected or student-data-used-only-to-benefit-the-student-or-school and possibly even somewhat pre-packaged (e.g. an age-, school-, or topic-specific user interface) or pre-filtered (e.g. "safesearch on" for search engines) would be a good thing.

Why not sell the student data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43124953)

What's the problem with selling student data? Schools are under funding pressure - so if those schools can sell student information, it saves them money that they can spend on other things.

Re:Why not sell the student data? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about a year ago | (#43125159)

What's the problem with selling student data? Schools are under funding pressure - so if those schools can sell student information, it saves them money that they can spend on other things.

There are *many* things wrong with selling student data, but since you're American, let's just say that schools don't own their students' data, the students do. Selling somebody else's property: bad.

Re:Why not sell the student data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125623)

The students, or their parents, own their individual data. The school owns the aggregate data.

Re:Why not sell the student data? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43125729)

The school is owned by the parents and taxpayers. The schools own NOTHING.

Re:Why not sell the student data? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year ago | (#43125395)

You know, all those students are a great labour pool. The schools could just sign them up for one of those "make $2500 a month from home!" jobs stuffing envelopes or whatever. That would relieve their funding pressure!

Re:Why not sell the student data? (1)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#43125457)

Because students are underage and can't protest the selling of their data. Selling the data of people who are not able to consent is illegal.

Re:Why not sell the student data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125791)

A student's age has nothing to do with their ability to protest anything. They are perfectly capable of protesting this.

Sale of data of non-consensual minors is illegal only until congresscritters pass laws making it legal.

Wonder if do-not-track works with Google Apps...

Several thoughts (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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)

Re:Several thoughts (1)

smileymon (1076163) | about a year ago | (#43125137)

Is my maths bad or did the 5 other thoughts just get erased?

Re:Several thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125391)

The post said several, not seven.

Re:Several thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125311)

Massachusetts tried the "ALL data format should be in open formats". Take a good look at the history of OpenDocument Format, used by OpenOffice and LibreOffice and with a very good public standard, and Microsoft's fraudulently named "Office Open XML". When Massachusetts mandated that all government documents must be in public API's for long-term data access, and only OpenOffice actually had a working public API, Microsoft both forced a broken spec through the ISO approval process to have something that was "open" but which they've never actually followed for Microsoft Office documents.

The smear campaign Microsoft pulled to discredit Massachusetts leader's attempts to force an open format was fascinating. Look at http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20051210103842722 for some history on it.

Basile, not Basil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43124975)

It's Carlo Basile, not Basil.

But does anyone give a shit? Didn't think so. This place has sunk into idiocracy.

Re:Basile, not Basil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125755)

I'm sure Carlo will get over it. Stop being a douche. Misspelling a name isn't exactly idiocracy. Plenty of people have misspelled my name, even in court documents. DERP!!

Thank you MS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125009)

It's good to see Microsoft doing the right thing, even if it's for selfish reasons.

I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125119)

Our kids and their data should not be used for commercial purposes inside the schools.

I don't care that Microsoft backs this bill.

Privacy should be a right for everyone, not just adults. Since children cannot give up those rights, then anyone providing services to children should not be allowed to infringe on the right.

It all comes down to the "expectation of privacy" whether privacy is a reality or not. We expect email to be private, even though it really is more like a post card. The expectation remains.

Seconded (1)

itsdapead (734413) | about a year ago | (#43125221)

Unless there's some sneaky bit of small print in the bill that amounts to "unless your name is Microsoft" then I agree.

Personally I have no problems with using cloud services but I respect those who would prefer not to be 'watched' and corporations certainly shouldn't be pushing ads to kids (...and going by other posts here, Google don't).

Even without ads, it is in the interest of cloud providers to offer education a good deal on their services - all those young hearts and minds.

If you can't get it for free, we'll sell it to you (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43125329)

Unless there's some sneaky bit of small print in the bill that amounts to "unless your name is Microsoft"

More likely it's Microsoft wanting to sell some service to the state's school districts that Google would have offered without charge.

Re:I agree (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#43187117)

google should just give the stuff away anyway and just not collect the data... even if merely to close the window of opportunity for microsoft

the problem for google is that if microsoft gets its grubby hands on the opportunity, they will lock the education system into the microsoft ecosystem and they will have the contract for eternity

laws can always be amended, and money can be made by other means... i'm sure there are some smart cookies at google that could come up with a revenue stream in such a system that doesn't violate such law (if enacted)

that's how it's supposed to be? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125125)

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.

Re:that's how it's supposed to be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125331)

On the other hand, many other European corporations are required by law to collect and store huge piles of personal information.

Academia has different concerns than most of us. (2)

Shag (3737) | about a year ago | (#43125157)

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.

So if websites can't collect data for kids under.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125217)

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 should be able to as well. Want it changed in the schools? Change it for the websites as well.

Just my thoughts

Re:So if websites can't collect data for kids unde (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year ago | (#43125355)

No service provider should be collecting data about any school kid. If they go home and sign into Facebook, that's their decision. At school, it's not.

Microsoft may have written this law, but, as described, it sounds like a good one.

Re:Microsofts law. (1)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about a year ago | (#43125885)

LOL, WTF. You have no idea what Microsoft is up to here.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-education-database-idUSBRE92204W20130303 [reuters.com]
Linked from
http://yro.slashdot.org/story/13/03/04/135248/100-million-student-database-worries-parents [slashdot.org]

"The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it."

I like the bill, though not its motives (2)

Pollux (102520) | about a year ago | (#43125317)

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.

Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43125349)

this would be a very good federal law IF applied to ALL "cloud computing" and storage services with NO exceptions, and huge fines and long prison sentences for any data breaches.

Even then there are too many ways security can be breached and the data used for illegal or imoral or unethical purposes.

JUST SAY NO TO "CLOUD COMPUTING"!

Not a real big deal (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a year ago | (#43125375)

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.

Don't you love it (1)

gelfling (6534) | about a year ago | (#43125509)

When corporations write and enforce your laws?

Re:Don't you love it (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#43187155)

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)

Re:Don't you love it (1)

gelfling (6534) | about a year ago | (#43187307)

Your just the most precious libertarian!

Re:Don't you love it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43187367)

at least i'm not an ignorant left wing liberal progressive retard

how's the kool aid?

The hypocrisy is palpable (4, Informative)

walterbyrd (182728) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:The hypocrisy is palpable (1)

Kataire (592050) | about a year ago | (#43127275)

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.

Re:The hypocrisy is palpable (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#43128421)

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 outcomes is valuable for improving education, and that improvement could (and should) happen without introducing a profit motive to analysis of the data. Now of course, there are problems with the database. Theoretical goals of improvement should be achievable without storing personally identifiable information. Anonymizing the data before submitting it to the Foundation should have been a blindingly obvious first step. Storage of social security numbers, especially, is mind-bogglingly stupid on their part. But those problems are independent of the proposed law banning certain types of exploitation of such data.

It's total hypocrisy, and you know it. (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | about a year ago | (#43131829)

Bill Gates is pretending to care about the privacy of children just to continue his Tonya Harding tactics against Google.

If BG gave a damn about the privacy of students, he would not be funding this database.

Slashdot now another MS propaganda site (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | about a year ago | (#43131805)

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.

Re:Slashdot now another MS propaganda site (1)

cheros (223479) | about a year ago | (#43168365)

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 Google knows damn well that it was breaking the law). I'm interested to see how they fare with the privacy policy problems, because the prior Streetview affair has made Google now into a repeat offender (hence the massive lobbying in Europe right now).

In this case you should look beyond the companies involved and look at the kids - by accident, Microsoft has done something that's actually good. Personally I think kids should not be in a database for commercial gain until they are adults, full stop. No excuses.

Sure, I know that Microsoft's motivation is anything but pure but it has fairly accurately laid its dirty fingers on Google's man problem: privacy is an inalienable [thefreedictionary.com] Human Right - Google making a profit is not.

Re:Slashdot now another MS propaganda site (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#43187185)

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

Gates Foundation student database spooks parents (1)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year ago | (#43126221)

"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]

Msoft finally catches on to what google does (1)

buybuydandavis (644487) | about a year ago | (#43126659)

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.

MALegislature? Almost like expertsexchange! (1)

r00t (33219) | about a year ago | (#43126685)

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

We always thought they were malicious.

"State"? What state? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43126947)

Massachusetts isn't a State, it's a Commonwealth. A mistake like that will get this bill laughed out of the General Court of the Commonwealth (which, bizarrely enough, is what the legislature likes to call itself).

We need a law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43127527)

No company or person can write dictate or influence a bill in the state of federal governments only the elected can do that.
I am tired of laws being passed that fuck me out of my money kids education to make another company or person rich.
To keep it this from ever happening again at the penalty of death if you are even accused not even found guilty go ahead fuck around with that law in place.

Google Apps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43146357)

It has always been that way since the very beginning of Google Apps. 4N25 [hqew.net]

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