Dec 20 2008   2:11AM GMT

Thank you, Federal Trade Commission…

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

For saying the blindingly obvious:

“Companies and schools should find new ways to authenticate the identities of customers, employees and students that do not involve social security numbers, a U.S. consumer protection agency said on Wednesday as part of recommendations to fight identity theft.”

Now here is the real challenge: could the FTC, a government agency, please communicate this point with Medicare? You, know, the government agency that puts the social security number on the medical benefits card it requires members to carry? The report addresses the use in the “private sector,” but medical use of social security numbers is a huge factor in medical identity theft, synthetic identity theft, and plain ol’ identity theft.

The FTC released the report on December 17, 2008, and you can read it here. All 21 pages of it in double space.

The “Social Security Number” was created in 1936 for the purpose of tracking workers’ earnings for benefits purposes. Not as a universal identifier. Any good DBA will tell you that only using one “identifier” predicates a high risk of false positives. Newer techniques, such as full name, address, date of birth, place of birth, etc, as a group predicate a much more accurate positive response (“Yes, this is the right person”).

But this additional data is “out there” as well, along with social security numbers. The genie IS out of the bottle.

The report worries about social security numbers data already being out of control. Given how many databases are out there (public and private) with ALL of the above information in storage, I think it is already way out of control, and the other identifying data along with it. Daily reports from the “Breach Blog” saturate my email box. Reading Pogo Was Right only confirms my opinion.

The FTC report seems to be an exercise in “too little, too late.”

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