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The SSN Problem

Via ArsTechnica:  White House wants to end Social Security numbers as a national ID

Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity czar, said on Tuesday that the government should end using the Social Security number as a national identification method.

[…]

“The concept of a Social Security number in this environment being private and secure—I think it’s time as a country to think beyond that,” Smith testified. “What is a better way to identify consumers in our country in a very secure way? I think that way is something different than an SSN, a date of birth, and a name.”

Joyce said the government is examining the use of a “modern cryptographic identifier,” like public and private keys.

So, a decent idea from a member of the administration.  Clearly the social security number needs a major revamp.

 

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Obviously we should be tattooed with bar codes at birth. Then, when technology allows – any day now – we can be fitted with implanted chips which allow us to be tracked, surveilled and brainwashed all at the same time. Convenience!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  2. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @michael reynolds: That sounds like a brave new world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Gustopher says:

    Smith testified. “What is a better way to identify consumers in our country in a very secure way? I think that way is something different than an SSN, a date of birth, and a name.”

    Consumers? Sigh. The rest of us call them “people”.

    SSNs are terrible, and now with the Equifax security failure, should be considered basically public knowledge. We need something else, which can be invalidated and changed. I’m not going to hazard a guess at the right thing, but surely some other countries have modernized similar identifiers already, and we can hopefully learn from their successes and failures.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    .What is a better way to identify consumers in our country in a very secure way? [emphasis added]

    Ham handed way of expressing himself or Freudian slip?

    As always with this crew the devil is in the details, and I keep forgetting whether it’s he’s serious but not literal or literal but not serious.

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  5. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: You beat me to it. By 5 minutes (I must be getting really slow at typing).

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  6. DrDaveT says:

    I clicked on this expecting to hear bad news about the Virginia-class submarine program.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Ratufa says:

    My paranoia kicks in when an ex-NSA guy is gun-ho for a national ID scheme. But, that might just be me.

    In discussing this, we shouldn’t confuse two roles that SSNs are used for: 1) As a memorizeable database key that specifies a unique person and 2) As a secret , whose possession verifies the possessor’s identity; Role 1 is extremely useful and is embedded in -lots- of existing software. Role 2 is extremely dangerous, given how easily a person’s SSN can be discovered.

    A good discussion of this is at:

    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/pakwnb/replacing-social-security-numbers-is-harder-than-you-think

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  8. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher:

    surely some other countries have modernized similar identifiers already, and we can hopefully learn from their successes and failures

    As if America would ever follow the positive examples of other countries. I mean, who among us would want true universal healthcare, a gun murder rate below 1 per 100K, decent public transportation, and university educations that don’t put us $100K in debt?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. gVOR08 says:

    IIRC, the SSN was intended only as an identifier for SS purposes and by statute no one outside the federal government, and your employer for tax purposes, was entitled to see it. But it proved too convenient for other purposes and the privacy went the way of all good things.

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