A few paragraphs from Bob Bowdon on Huffington Post: “Why Has Google Been Collecting Kids’ Social Security Numbers Under the Guise of an Art Contest?”
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.
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 people who didn’t even understand that such a disclosure was happening.
So in closing, three simple ideas for you, gentle reader, to take away. (1) City of birth, when coupled with year of birth, can be correlated to social security numbers, so don’t give it out just because a box appears on a form. (2) No public contest should ask for any part of a social security number, especially involving kids. (3) For internet searches, have you tried Yahoo! or Bing lately? (They’re probably both improved since you last tried them.) You just might find what you’re looking for.
Um, wow. Just, wow.