Google is underfire again by the US House of Representatives Privacy Caucus. Congressmen Joe Barton and Ed Markey are disturbed by an entry form in a Google contest aimed at children called “Doodle for Google.”
To enter the Doodle for Google contest, the contestant’s parent or guardian needed to fill out a form which called for the child’s date and city of birth as well as the last four digits of their social security numbers. According to documentarian Bob Bowden in an SEO hungry editorial for the Huffington Post:
has been asking parents nationwide to disclose their children’s personal information, including Social Security Numbers, and recruiting schools to help them do it — all under the guise of an art contest
Bowden postulates in his editorial that Google is looking to collect data and possibly sell it to marketing companies. This data, according to Bowden, would be worth millions. He is probably correct but Google attests that they are doing this contest because “We love to encourage and celebrate the creativity of young people…”
Read more after the break
Bowden also seems shocked that Google would want the complete contact information from the parents, you know to contact them if their child wins the prize? Bowden seems to forget that Google is one of the biggest companies in the world right now and a child made Google Doodle to take the place of the Google logo on the main search page, would well, be worthy of telling ones parents.
Nevertheless the last four numbers of a social security number could be cause for concern. I mean it’s not like they can’t narrow down the right child based on all the other information provided.
Certainly Google is using some algorithm and a warehouse full of servers to take that child’s last four digits in their social security number and generate the other 5 numbers randomly, and spit out the correct numbers.. EVIL isn’t it.
It was reported later that Google was using the last four digits of the social security number to prevent duplicate entries and the city of birth to insure that the contest was limited to US citizens.
Google has since eliminated the requirement of the last four digits of the social security number in the online form.
Congressmen Barton and Markey released this joint statement
“We are deeply disturbed by recent media reports that Google may have engaged in sketchy practices with its Doodle 4 Google contest by collecting the social security numbers of children who participated in the contest. This is unacceptable…”