Skip to main content

Reps. See Red Over Reports of Google Data Collection From Kids

There is more trouble in online privacy land or, according to Goole, there isn't.
Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.), co-chairs of the House Privacy Caucus, said Thursday in a joint statement that they were "deeply disturbed" by reports that the Doodle 4 Google contest including collecting social security numbers from its k-12 contestants.

They pledged to hold a hearing of the Caucus on online privacy.

In the contest, Google has been encouraging kids to redesign the iconic Google logo, for which redesign, or at least adaptation, is actually the norm.

But collecting Social Security numbers should not be the norm, the legislators made clear, though they were not above working a "sketch" pun into their 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. As Co-Chairmen of the Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we have long believed that consumers should have control over their own personal information. It is particularly important that stringent privacy protections are applied so that children do not have their personal information collected or disclosed.

"This year we started accepting doodles from kids even if their school hadn't registered for the contest," explained a Google spokesperson in an e-mail to B&C. "To help us keep entries distinct and remove duplicate entries from any particular student, we asked parents for limited information, including the last 4 digits of a student's social security number. We later updated our forms when we recognized that we could sufficiently separate legitimate contest entries while requesting less information. To be clear, all data concerning students that is collected by Doodle 4 Google is used only to administer the contest. The last 4 digits of the social security number were not entered into our contest records, and any forms containing this information will be safely discarded."

Markey has already signaled he plans to introduce a bill that would prevent web sites from tracking and collecting info from kids.

Markey and Barton are the same bipartisan tag team that grilled Google on its collection of unsecured Wi-Fi data as part of Google's Street View mapping effort, and Apple for its privacy policies.
A Google spokesperson was ill Thursday and unavailable for comment and the Google press office had not returned an e-mail for comment at press time.