Martin McKeay "can't see straight" (and I would say he is being myopic) about SSNs in Texas. Here are my points:
- For as long as we continue to pretend that SSNs are secret and therefore may be used as authenticators, they will be.
- There are over 150,000 people (my estimate) with "defendable" access to your SSN right now. They aren't secret.
- You are more likely by a factor of 10 to be a victim of identity fraud via one of these "authorized" folks.
- The real problem is not how easy it is to get your SSN, but how creditors et.al. allow the SSN to be used as an authenticator (See #1).
- The SSN is fine as an identifier. No, it is not perfect, but its main benefit is that it is already used in so many places.
Martin, you are stuck inside the box. You keep feeling the need for secrecy/privacy even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That's why you speak of "disclosure" and "choice" and all those things. But "disclosing" the SSN should be no more significant, and quite a bit more useful, than providing your name, address, and phone number to folks.
Of course, something will need to be used officially. That is a function of fraud against the government. People cheat on taxes. People cheat on welfare. People cheat on, well, social security. If they didn't, we wouldn't need SSNs.
To whatever extent you don't want or need credit, then I agree that you shouldn't be "forced" to use the SSN. In fact, there are businesses out there that issue "junk" credit which is all you can get if you can't prove that your credit history merits better. You have the choice to keep your SSN "private"; they have the option to deny you credit and/or services.
Knee-jerk regulations and laws really suck. They are not a solution to every problem, and they are unnecessary here. Martin, feel free to tell me what organization would accept the SSN as an authenticator if the SSA published every single one of them publicly. Chances are almost nil and if it did happen, there is plenty of recourse in today's court systems to stomp on the practice without any new regulation.