Student Googles Self, Discovers Social Security Number(s)

Los Rios Community College District, a Sacramento-area community college district, has sent letters to 2,000 students to let them know their Social Security numbers were mistakenly put online.

A student discovered the problem by doing an Internet search of himself using Google, the Contra Costa Times reported. "We didn't think the information was open to Google," Susie Williams, a spokeswoman for the District, told the newspaper: "It was a shock to learn they were able to do it."

The district has removed the information, which also included students' names and birth dates. Experts say the incident demonstrates the Internet's sometimes unexpected reach.  "Google's spiders regularly crawl the Web to rebuild our index," said a company statement. "Computer programs determine which sites to crawl, how often and how many pages to fetch from each site."

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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