Please Don't Use My SSN

I needed to actually write and print out a letter…

New York University

Office of the University Registrar

To Whom It May Concern,

Please assign me a student ID number other than my social security number. US Social Security Numbers were created for a specific and narrow purpose in the Social Security Act of 1935. However, that purpose did not include the identification or authentication of individuals for other purposes. I appreciate that using this number is convenient for your institution, but I’m also sure that you appreciate that the more this number is used for this contrary purpose of authentication, the less valuable it becomes in that capacity. In fact, “According to the FTC’s figures, ID theft is the most popular form of consumer fraud, in part because it is the most profitable. ID thieves stole nearly $100 million from financial institutions last year, or an average of $6,767 per victim.” Having my social security number spread throughout the institution of NYU for purposes of authentication dramatically increases my exposure to identity theft.


Joseph M. Reagle Jr.

Ported/Archived Responses

Joseph Reagle on 2003-09-26

Yea, it’s a bit of the paradox where people want these stupid things to authenticate you, but the more people that have it, the more useless it becomes!

Yves on 2003-09-26

In France, the SSN is considered as a very private
information, and any database that wants to use it needs to get permission from the state (and it is very difficult to get, and close to impossible for private company).

Joseph Reagle on 2004-01-14

Now the university is in trouble because a list of students and their IDs (SSNs) has been found on the Web:

Trackback from Joseph Reagle on 2004-02-18

            More SSN Madness  If you need further evidence as to why using a Social Security Number (SSN) for identification is a bad idea consider this new story from real life. AppleBank recently launched its on-line banking service. In order to

Ara on 2003-09-28

In Spain we actually have two numbers to identificate us: DNI, which is used everywhere, and SSN which is much more private and it is used only to legal stuff about jobs or medical insurance.

anders on 2003-09-26

Columbia does the same thing. Bates College, though, was very good about not using SSNs for anything.

i also love it when restaurants print your entire credit card number on the receipt. shredders aren’t just for politicians anymore.

Joseph Reagle on 2003-09-28

Yes, that would be welcome here!

Joseph Reagle on 2004-01-16

Joel Reidenberg pointed out that there’s a NY state law prohibiting the collection of SSN, after some digging, I found this:

Where there is no legal basis for the request, a person may refuse to provide his/her social security number. In such cases, the person shall not be denied any service.  The bill further provides for enforcement by the Attorney General.

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