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Barton, Markey to Probe Google Kids' SSN Controversy Barton, Markey to Probe Google Kids' SSN Controversy

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Congress

Barton, Markey to Probe Google Kids' SSN Controversy

February 24, 2011

Responding to the controversy related to information Google sought as part of an art contest for children, the two House co-chairmen of the Congressional Privacy Caucus said Thursday they plan to convene a caucus hearing into industry practices surrounding online privacy, particularly how they affect children.

In a statement, Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Edward Markey, D-Mass., both senior members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Google's decision to ask parents to provide the last four digits of their children's Social Security numbers in submitting artwork for the firm's Doodle for Google contest was "unacceptable."

"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," Barton and Markey said. "This is unacceptable."

The statement follows calls from some privacy advocates for lawmakers to examine Google's privacy practices, particularly in light of the most recent controversy.

Google said the information was sought only to prevent duplicate entries. It stopped asking for the last four digits of the Social Security numbers of children participating in the contest after realizing it didn't need the data to administer the program. The firm added that it will "safely discard" the data.

Both lawmakers have expressed an interest in crafting online privacy legislation. Markey is in the process of crafting legislation aimed at barring firms from tracking children while they surf the Internet.

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