23 February 2011

Why Has Google Been Collecting Kids' Social Security Numbers Under the Guise of an Art Contest?

From Bob Bowden, Huffington Post:

It turns out that the company sporting the motto "don't be evil" 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.

It's called, "Doodle-4-Google," a rather catchy, kid-friendly name if I do say so myself. The company is even offering prize money to schools to enlist their help with the promotion. Doesn't it sound like fun? Don't you want your kid to enter too? What could be wrong with filling out a few entry forms?

A national, commercial database of names and addresses of American children, especially one that includes their dates of birth and SSNs, would be worth many millions to marketing firms and retailers.

Of course, data collection is not the reason Google gives for doing this competition. Their FAQ says it's because "We love to encourage and celebrate the creativity of young people..." etc. If that's so, then why on earth would the contest's original Parent Consent Form ask for the child's city of birth, date of birth and last four digits of the child's SSN? Along with complete contact info of the parents.

You see what Google knows and many parents don't know is that a person's city of birth and year of birth can be used to make a statistical guess about the first five digits of his/her social security number.

Then, if you can somehow obtain those last four SSN digits explicitly -- voila, you've unlocked countless troves of personal information from someone who didn't even understand that such a disclosure was happening.

This kind of data can be linked with other databases to target advertising. It's worth many times more than what Google will spend on prizes (each State Finalist gets a T-shirt!).

Read the complete article from Bob Bowden: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-bowdon/why-has-google-been-colle_b_825754.html

Posted via email from colby pre-posterous

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