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Australian students may be spared potentially invasive digital data access from Google following the Privacy Commission’s decision to back the EU’s reforms regarding Google's new privacy policy.

European data protection agencies have given Google a four month deadline to fix its new privacy policy which the agencies claim do not comply with EU laws.

Last week the Australian Information Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim as part of regional data protection agency group The Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities Forum (APPA) announced its support for the recommendations made by the Commission Nationale de I’Informatique et des Libertès (CNIL) Working Party’s investigation into Google’s privacy policy issues.

One of the data protection agencies key concerns under Google’s new privacy policy is the data capturing abilities used in apps for government use.

In Australia, Google Apps for Education is widely used by the education sector with the New South Wales Government’s Department of Education and Training currently one of its biggest users across its 1.2 million student base.

Currently Google’s usage policy provides the ability to turn on and serve behavioural advertising to those 1.2 million students based upon their emails, attachments, uploaded videos and digital activity.

Digital law specialist Bradley Shear, who has been working on similar privacy protection issues in the U.S, told The Register that under the current Google Apps for education agreement, Google can store student data anywhere in the world leaving countries and students that are not protected by the CNIL’s recommendations exposed.

Shear warned that from a public policy perspective, the issue raised “is whether it is acceptable for a government to monetize a student's personal thoughts and interactions between their teachers and fellow students.”

Shear questions if it would it be acceptable if Australian teachers captured their students' preferences and then returned projects with coupons for items based on their work or if a teacher or a school was paid to provide discount offers to children based upon how they responded to classroom projects?.

“Australian education authorities must re-evaluate how they protect student privacy, and they must be more cognizant when making public policy decisions that may put personal privacy and safety at risk,” he warned.

If Australia, under APPA’s direction, implements CNIL's recommendations, Australian schools will not be able to advertise to their students based on their school work.

Google Australia has yet to respond to it stance on students' privacy or whether it will modify data domiciling arrangements under the EU’s edict. The company has, however, shown sensitivity to the issue of data domiciling in the past, with data from the New South Wales Education Department's GMail implementation hosted onshore by Telstra. ®

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