Google Moves to Dismiss New Mexico COPPA Case

Google filed a motion to dismiss a privacy complaint brought by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, who alleged the company violated COPPA through its G Suite for Education (Google Education). The new motion said Balderas failed to state actual claims regarding Google Education and that Google did not violate COPPA terms. This case is being held in the New Mexico District before Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal.

Filed February 20, the complaint against Google alleged that its G Suite for Education (Google Education) program collected personal information without parental consent from children under age 13. This data includes their physical locations, websites they visit, and saved passwords, among other things. The attorney general alleged that this practice violates the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and New Mexico’s Unfair Practices Act (UPA). Marketed to schools and parents as a free educational program, Google Education is allegedly “used by more than 80 million educators and students in the United States.”

The new motion claimed the complaint’s “central allegation—that Google’s practices for obtaining parental consent violate COPPA—fails as a matter of law because the challenged practices comply with authoritative federal guidance” One of the challenged practices is Google’s alleged failure to obtain parental consent. “Compliance does not necessarily require obtaining consent in every case, but instead “making” an appropriate “effort” to do so.  That effort can be “any reasonable” one.” Google also claims to follow FTC guidelines by relying “on schools to obtain or provide parental consent.”

Google also believes that the complaint identified no valid UPA violations, like fraudulent or misleading statements. While the Attorney General alleged that Google made material omissions or misrepresentations through “public-facing documents such as websites, privacy policies, marketing materials, and public statements,” none of these are actually cited.

The plaintiff’s opposition to Google’s motion for dismissal is due by July 10. Google is represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, as well as Miller Stratvert.