Recently Google quietly made a change to include “Chrome Sync” in the list of “Core” tools in gSuite for Education. Chrome Sync provides the ability (when you sign in to Chrome or by default on a Chromebook), to sync Chrome data to your Google Account and to any other supported ChromeOS/browser that is signed in. Synced data includes chrome apps, autofill settings, bookmarks, chrome extensions, browser history, passwords, chrome settings, themes, wallpaper, open tabs and google payment data*
This change should provide official clarity as to how data in Chrome Sync is used, as described in the Education Privacy Notice.
This change also provides an opportunity for District g Suite Admins to remind users that they have the option to add an additional layer of privacy by setting a Chrome Sync passphrase. A sync passphrase encrypts all synced data at rest. If you set a passphrase, you can use Google’s cloud to store and sync your data without letting Google read it.
Users also have the ability to selectively disable syncing of some or all of elements that are synced.
The G Suite Services Summary page now includes the following text:
“G Suite for Education” is an edition of G Suite comprised of the G Suite Core Services, excluding Google+ and Google Cloud Search. …. This edition also includes Classroom and Chrome Sync as G Suite Core Services.
- “Classroom” is a web-based service that allows End Users to create and participate in classroom groups. Using Classroom, students can view assignments, submit homework, and receive grades from teachers.
- “Chrome Sync” is a feature that allows End Users to synchronize bookmarks, history, passwords, and other settings across all the devices where they are signed in to Chrome.
And the G Suite for Education Core and Services Admin help page is updated to say:
G Suite Core Services are Gmail (including Inbox by Gmail), Calendar, Chrome Sync, Classroom, Contacts, Drive, Docs, Forms, Groups, Sheets, Sites, Slides, Talk/Hangouts and Vault.
Prior to this change, Google offered this statement, about the use of Chrome Sync data in response to a request for information from Sen. Al Franken.
Users who have Chrome Sync enabled (whether on a Chromebook or using the Chrome
browser) will have additional information about their browser settings stored in their Google Account, including browsing history, any saved apps, extensions, bookmarks, and passwords. ….. If any of this data is associated with a student’s GAFE account — which is the case when a student is logged into a Chromebook with Chrome Sync enabled with their GAFE account — we consider this data to be the student’s personal information and do not use it to target ads.
Google stated that it “collects, maintains, and uses information via Chrome Sync (in aggregated and anonymized form) for the purpose of improving Google products”. For context, this is comparable to similar language and use by Apple who states that …
“We may collect and store details of how you use our services, including search queries. This information may be used to improve the relevancy of results provided by our services”
And with Microsoft’s Cortana service, which states that
“Microsoft uses your voice data to improve Cortana’s understanding of how you speak to keep improving Cortana’s recognition and responses, and to improve other Microsoft products and services that use speech recognition and intent understanding”
*Google payment data is a non-core service, only available to users 13 and older. Schools are required to get parental permission if this is enabled for users 13-18.