Do we really need Social Security numbers? Some people believe the system has outlived its usefulness and Some feel that the Social Security number system as a means of identification has become obsolete.
The recent massive data breach of Equifax has prompted the Trump administration to explore ways of replacing the use of Social Security numbers as the main method of assuring people’s identities.
Federal departments and agencies have been tasked to investigate vulnerabilities of the identifying system which is also tied to retirement benefits. Government agencies have also been asked to find ways of replacing the system.
But it won’t be easy to find a replacement system, the Social Security number system has been in use since 1936, and nearly 454 million different numbers have been used. With those kind of numbers and with it being such an ingrained system, finding a replacement will be difficult and will take time to deploy. Originally the system was intended as a means of tracking U.S. workers’ earnings to determine their Social Security benefits, but it was soon used as a general identifier for virtually every American.
Recently, Rob Joyce, special assistant to the president and White House cybersecurity coordinator was quoted as saying, “I feel very strongly that the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness”. At a cyber conference in Washington organized by the Washington Post, Joyce also said, “every time we use the Social Security number, we put it at risk”.
With Social Security numbers becoming so much a part of peoples’ identities, it has become valuable for what could be gained by stealing it.
Social Security numbers were more useful in a day when we didn’t have a better way to identify and keep track of millions. Today we live in a world where personal identification can be accomplished using various means. It will be interesting to see what method for identification will replace the Social Security number, and how secure it will really be?