FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, May 16, 2005

Congress May Take on the SSN

Faced with high-profile security breaches of ChoicePoint, Bank of America and other well-established firms -- as well as multiple other smaller hacks -- Congress is rethinking how personal information is secured.

Multiple bills are in the works to alter the way that Social Security numbers are used, and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is pressing for legislation that would "outlaw the use of Social Security numbers for any purpose other than government purposes."

Of course, SSNs were never intended to be general-purpose identifiers, but took the first steps along that road during the 1960s, when they were used for tax identification. During the 1970's and '80s, SSNs were linked to a variety of personal information, including bank accounts and insurance.

There's not reason why banks and credit bureaus can't generate their own identifiers that would undoubtedly be more secure than permanent SSNs. Ideally, such identifiers should be temporary, changing on a regular basis or whenever the customer chooses. They can also be secured through token technology, which would require a physical device (smart card, etc.) in addition to an identifier to access one's personal information.

Source: C|Net