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"Doodle-4-Google" is so much more than an art contest. Sure, the game, which received 33,000 entries last year, celebrates "the creativity of young people" by having them send in a drawing under the theme "What I would like to do someday "
But, there's another component, as well. It also helps Google collect some very personal data on students K through 12. Along with the submission, the contest's initial Parent Consent Form asked for the child's city of birth (not current city, mind you), date of birth, the last four digits of the child's social security number, as well as complete contact info for the parents.
Bob Bowdon, who directed The Cartel, a documentary about corruption in the public-school system explained the significance:
You see what Google knows and many parents don't knowis 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.
Google could make a lot of marketing money from that information, New York's Nitasha Tiku writes, though Bowdon admits he has "no evidence that Google will use or sell this information for marketing purposes." On the other hand, Tiku notes, Google stopped asking for the last four digits a mere 26 hours after the FTC was alerted.
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.
At least the contest "privacy notice" is clear enough: "participation constitutes consent to the storage, use and disclosure of the Entrant's entry details...."