Google finalized steps this month to make it more difficult for sexual exploitation to proliferate on its devices used by children.
Prior to the change, Google’s Chromebook was featured on the “Dirty Dozen List” published by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a nonprofit focused on fighting against sex trafficking. The list, released in February, includes big tech companies NCOSE argues profit from sexual exploitation.
“Given the safety measures that have been implemented as of today, we have removed Google Chromebook from our 2021 Dirty Dozen List,” Lina Nealon, director of corporate and strategic initiatives for NCOSE, said in a statement. “The improvements were long sought-after by NCOSE and its allies and ultimately will limit the amount of exposure to harmful content and potential predators through school-issued Chromebooks.”
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Nealon went on to say Google’s decision “to default devices and products to safety for kids is now an industry standard and we urge other tech companies to follow suit.”
Google Chromebook — which has been used a great deal by underage students amid the coronavirus pandemic — was featured on the list over concerns kids could access sexually explicit content.
NCOSE argued Google’s “refusal to turn on safety features for Chromebooks distributed to schools has resulted in countless students being left exposed to sexually explicit material and sexual predators on their school-assigned devices.”
“More than 40 million students and teachers worldwide were using these popular devices prior to the pandemic,” the nonprofit stated. “Millions more received Chromebooks for virtual schooling during COVID-19. Instead of proactively keeping kids safe, this trillion-dollar tech giant chooses to place the burden on overwhelmed schools and parents while leaving children at risk. “
Jennifer Holland, director of education program management at Google, announced in late June that the California-based company would be putting into place several safety measure for Chromebooks, beginning in September.
In a blog post, Holland explained:
We’re launching a new age-based access setting to make it easier for admins to tailor experiences for their users based on age when using Google services like YouTube, Photos and Maps. Starting today, all admins from primary and secondary institutions must indicate which of their users, such as their teachers and staff, are 18 and older using organizational units or groups in Admin Console. After September 1, 2021, students who are under 18 will see changes in their experience across Google products.
For example, after September 1, students designated as under 18 in K-12 domains can view YouTube content assigned by teachers, but they won’t be able to post videos, comment or live stream using their school Google account. Administrators should ensure that Google Takeout is turned on so that end users can download their data, like previously uploaded videos, using Google Takeout.
Holland went on to state that admins who failed to make a selection by Sept. 1, devices “will all default to the under-18 experience, while higher-education institutions users will default to the 18-and-older experience.”
“These age-based settings are not locked and admins can always adjust them according to the age of their users,” she added.
Dawn Hawkins, CEO of NCOSE, described the changes implemented by Google this week as a “great step forward for children’s safety,” stating the “burden for safety shouldn’t be on kids [and] parents” alone and that tech companies “must play this role, too.”
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