Chairman Johnson Announces Hearing on Securing Americans’ Identities: The Future of the Social Security Number

May 10, 2018 — Hearing Advisory    — Press Releases   

WASHINGTON, D. C. – House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) announced today that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled “Securing Americans’ Identities: The Future of the Social Security Number.” The hearing will focus on the dangers of the use of the Social Security number (SSN) as both an identifier and authenticator and examine policy considerations and possible solutions to mitigate the consequences of SSN loss or theft. The hearing will take place on Thursday, May 17, 2018 in 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 10:00 AM.

Upon announcing the hearing, Chairman Johnson said:

“For years, I’ve been dedicated to doing all I can to keep Americans safe from the harm of identity theft, particularly when it comes to how Social Security numbers are used. It’s past time to talk about the real problem, which is the fact we use these numbers as both identifiers and authenticators. The American people deserve no less.”

BACKGROUND

The SSA originally created the SSN in 1936 to uniquely identify American workers so the SSA could accurately track their earnings and administer the Social Security program. Despite being created as an identifier, for decades the SSN has also been used as an authenticator, which is only effective if SSNs remain confidential.

The confidentiality of SSNs has been compromised due in large part to recent massive data breaches. On September 7, 2017, Equifax, one of the three primary credit reporting agencies in the U.S., revealed that it had identified a data breach resulting in the theft of the SSNs of more than 145 million Americans. Equifax’s records were able to be accessed from at least May 13, 2017 to July 30, 2017, and there’s evidence that access occurred as early as March 2017. Other high-profile breaches include the 2015 breaches of the Office of Personnel Management when approximately 21.5 million SSNs were stolen, and Anthem, Inc. when the personal information, including SSNs, of approximately 78.8 million was stolen.