For many American companies and universities, it's common practice to use Social Security numbers as unique identifiers. But growing concerns over identity theft are pressuring state legislators to limit the practice.
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Faced with growing pressure from constituents concerned about the risks of identity theft, lawmakers are contemplating ways to curtail use of Social Security numbers for purposes other than taxpayer identification.
“The request for a Social Security number is now often made as if it were the most natural thing in the world, when this number is actually the passport to your identity,” said California Assemblyman Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who is sponsoring a bill that limits the ways universities and employers can use Social Security numbers.
Simitian's bill, submitted to the state assembly this month, would prohibit universities from using Social Security numbers on student IDs, a practice that has provided easy pickings for identity thieves.
The bill would also prohibit any employer “from requiring an employee to use his or her Social Security number for any purpose other than taxes,” and would raise criminal penalties for those who misappropriate the numbers of minors.
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Several states, including New York, Arizona, Wisconsin and Rhode Island already have statutes on the books that limit how schools may use Social Security data, Hoofnagle said. A number of universities have also established task forces to develop ID systems that keep Social Security numbers secure. [Privacy Digest]