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Coronavirus and Schools: Google Voice Accounts for Teachers (Follow Up)


Posted on in Press Releases and Announcements

We received some follow up questions regarding our e-mail on Friday about Google Voice – we have complied them into one message for brevity:

I was under the impression that Google Voice is for personal use only and that if someone used it for business purposes (teachers contacting families) they would be in violation of Google’s terms of use, unless they acquired a paid account from Google. Can you please verify if this is accurate?

The Voice Acceptable Use Policy prohibits using a personal Google Voice number for sending large amounts of personal or automated messages (essentially telemarketing or robocalls), but the terms don’t prohibit the type of use contemplated here. There is little difference in a teacher using his/her personal cell phone versus using his/her personal Google Voice account to make calls. We view this as a teacher driven decision based upon their own concerns about keeping their personal number private.   

What about text messages? We forbid Google Voice accounts with staff simply because we didn’t want people developing communication habits with non-district systems. Voice lets you do SMS, voicemail to email, and a bunch of other stuff that’s not actually voice based.

Correct – we do not want teachers or staff using Google Voice to text students or parents, or to send e-mails from personal e-mail accounts. We are comfortable with using the voice feature in lieu of a standard personal voice number (even though that will include voicemail). Teachers and staff should be consistently reminded that written communications about school district business should be through approved school district resources only (whether e-mail, Classdojo, Google classroom, etc.). If you do allow teachers and staff to use Google Voice, you should emphasize that they should not text or e-mail from their personal account and that Google Voice use should be limited to voice calls only. 

Google Voice does data mine transcripts and messaging from free accounts in the system.  As we’re not sure what kind of PII is captured, is that a concern?

Deciphering Google Privacy terms is a veritable thorny thicket, but to our eye it appears that Google will collect what they describe as “telephony log information” from Google Voice users. They describe this to include “your phone number, calling-party number, receiving-party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls and messages, duration of calls, routing information, and types of calls.” The remainder of the privacy policy appears to rule out explicit data mining of telephone call or voicemail content. This is all the more reason to reiterate to staff to limit use to telephone calls only, and to not use Google Voice to send text messages or to use personal accounts to send e-mails.