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RE: Social Security Numbers and User Authentication

> Our libraries have been forced into using the SSN 
> in the absence of any other user id number.
> Jim Morgan

"Forced" seems to be a rather strong word.  Let's face it.  What has
happened is that as a society we have decided it is easy and cheap to use
the SSAN as a universal I.D. number, expanding it far beyond its
originally intended use "For Social Security and Tax Purposes Only--Not
For Identification."  (Holders of older cards can still read that intent
on the face of the card.) 

More precisely, as citizens we've not stiffened our spines and pressed for
legislation to outlaw this widespread use of the SSAN.  We've let a myriad
of government and private offices press us into delivering up our SSANS,
rather than insist that they invest in manual or electronic systems to
generate numbers unique to their purposes. 

At our university, the SSAN used to be available as part of an
individual's library automation system record.  Then an incident occured
with a student employee using SSANs to make fraudulent credit
applications.  Now the campus records system permutes the SSAN, so we
don't get the full SSAN, and it does not appear on I.D. cards.  (At
present the library links patron records to bar codes; we need the campus
I.D. number only for billing fines and lost books.)  But there is no
*real* reason for the campus to ask for the SSAN, if a number generator
were used instead. 

I'll admit, I don't know the cost of software to generate unique I.D.
numbers.  But I think we'd have better security if we required that it be
done, instead of asking for the SSAN, and assuring individuals that we'll
take good care of it.

Charles T. Kendall 
* Theological Studies Librarian/Archivist 
Anderson University 1100 E 5th ST Anderson, IN 46012 (USA) 
PHN: 765-641-4285
FAX: 765-641-3850
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