Gone fishing

By John Benkert

John BenkertGone fishing…well not without your social security number!

My son is getting ready to head back to college for his junior year and I know he loves to fish so I thought it would be nice to go spend some time fishing with him and do some talking and some thinking.  I don’t have a fishing license so I went to the web to get one.  To my surprise when I went to apply they asked for my social security number.

I paused for a minute and thought about why they might want to have and store that information.  I mean I have a valid state driver’s license, wouldn’t that number be better?  The main reason identity theft today is so easy is because of the power of the social security number.  Of course that raises the question, “Why is that number the key to my identity” it certainly isn’t why it was created.

(Skip this paragraph if you aren’t into history lessons!) The US Government in 1936 (by the way that is the same year sun tan lotion and the electric blanket were invented) came up with the unique nine digit number to help employers.  Here is a direct quote from ssa.gov:

“At its inception, the SSN’s only purpose was to uniquely identify U.S. workers, enabling employers to submit accurate reports of covered earnings for use in administering benefits under the new Social Security program. That is still the primary purpose for the SSN.” 

Data breaches are real.  Identity theft is real.  My wife and I both have had our social security numbers compromised multiple times and each time it was nothing that we did.  It was someone else’s lack of security processes, understanding of technology, or just plain laziness.

Billions of dollars are spent every year on cyber security tools, training, and processes.  Why don’t we do something less expensive over the long haul and start using something to identify ourselves other than a nine digit number created 80 years ago for a different purpose?  What could we use instead you ask.  I don’t have the answer to that and unfortunately I am not willing to give up my social security number to go fishing and think about it.

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