By Ian Bush
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (CBS) — Google, the Internet search behemoth, is pulling the plug on its policy of mining student e-mails to help it sell advertisements.
More than 30 million students and teachers use Gmail as part of the free “Apps for Education” service. Google was scanning and indexing the content of e-mails to use in ad sales — targeted commercial messages that could potentially pop up during other web surfing.
Google admitted to the practice in court in California; privacy advocates raised a red flag, saying it could violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Now, in a blog post, Google says it has permanently removed that scanning feature for education customers and will not collect or use student data for advertising purposes. It has also shut off a feature that allowed administrators to turn on ad delivery within Apps for Education.
Google still faces a lawsuit over whether its bulk e-mail scanning breaches wiretap laws.