CEI Comments on White House Call to End Social Security Numbers

CEI Vice President Jim Harper commented on the White House’s call for the end of social security numbers in light of the recent Equifax data breach.

“Social Security numbers are widely accessible, yet treated in many systems as a quasi-secret key for accessing other personal information. It would be welcome if the Equifax data breach were to spur the replacement of the insecure Social Security number with better protocols for identifying people in data systems. If that happens, the government should take fullest advantage of private initiative and market processes. 

“The White House and Congress should lay out the identification and credentialing standards they need met for their varied purposes rather than the system that must be used to meet their needs. Then technologists and business people can develop services to meet that demand. Doing so could help found a new business sector in our increasingly digital economy

“Reputation, identification, and credentialing are all economic services. But rather than a competitive marketplace, what we have today is a highly regulated credit reporting industry that uses government-mandated identity standards. In the new environment, competitive reputation services would use open identity standards developed with consumers’ and citizens’ interests in mind, including their keen interest in privacy.”