Why Schools shouldn’t use Google forms for anything private (Lesson learned)

Last week was a mess largely because the form we set up for teachers to share their information with us for the Eracism project was pulled down by Google with no warning. All of the data we collected to set up the voicethreads you now see at http://eracism.flatclassroomproject.org was lost with no hope of return. I contacted Google (is there such a thing) and found that the only way to get my file back was to publicly post on a  a thread on the Google product forum. Talk about a security lapse! They are concerned I'm collecting private data and I have to publicly post the link to my spreadsheet to get it reviewed?

Here are some facts:

Google Terms of Service says you can't use forms to collect personal information

According to Google terms of service, you're not to be collecting personal information using Google forms. This includes a userid, password, AND emails. This is odd because we've been using Google forms in this way for as long as I can remember but that is what they say.

A bot looks for words like “userid” “password” and “email”

A bot looks for these words and can suspend your form. You get no warning. You get no way to get the data back.

Google Terms of Service Could Ruin Your Wedding

It set us back a whole week on Eracism but didn't kill the project (fortunately) but the women using Google forms for Wedding RSVP's shown in the note below are heartbreaking. With all the people using Google forms for wedding RSVP's that I've seen, I know it is in terms of service

Forum post on Google suspending documents

Google Terms of Service Could Shut down your class

Another teacher has his work blocked for some strange reason and has lost his coursework.

No resolution in sight
I followed the systems in place to get back the data. Meanwhile, although we've used Google forms quite a bit to collect data for our projects (for 5 years since Flat Classroom started) it looks like that we may have to look elsewhere. There is no method to communicate with Google employees and request review of a document.

In Summary: Don't use Google forms for anything somewhat private
This is a problem and although no one is talking about it, we need to start. Every day we ask for parent permission. We ask for addresses, we ask for phone numbers, and we ask for emails. If Google will randomly scan our work and also will not define for us what constitutes “private information” then Google forms is NOT a suitable alternative for collecting information for schools.

But then again, what is private? Just about everything we collect. Hoping to get some commenters to shed light on this in the comments below. Perhaps there is something I'm missing. Thanks.

I can't in good faith recommend it and am moving to surveyshare and looking at Zoho forms‘ terms of service to see if they are better options for what we're doing.

The needs of schools are unique and right now, Google is ignoring this one.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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