Wired News reporter Annalee Newitz has compiled a “top ten” list of privacy debacles.
It’s easy to quibble with the results, but I was delighted to see “The Creation of the Social Security Number” at #1. Our national identifier has used its government backing to push aside all others and enable government and corporate surveillance on a scale that would never have occurred under natural conditions.
In Identity Crisis: How Identification is Overused and Misunderstood, I discuss how the uniform identification system we’ve built around the Social Security Number is insecure for individuals, making information about them too readily available to governments, corporations, and crooks.
The fix is nothing so ham-handed as banning uses of Social Security Numbers. Rather, it will be necessary to remake our identification systems so that they are diverse and competitive, and thus solicitous of individuals’ interests.