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Re: Social Security Numbers and User Authentication

Charles Kendall wrote:
> 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

Liblicense-L has readers in many countries, and it can be important to
point out that social security numbers, personal numbers, etc., have
different functions in different countries.  Adding to this confusion
is my own, and perhaps other list members', less than perfect command
of the English language.

Two terms have been mentioned: identification and authentication.  I
believe these are different things.  It is like when you enter a
computer system with a password.  First you type your "login" or your
"user name".  This is your identification, which is your wellknown
name.  Often, your identification is also your e-mail address, so
everybody knows it.  Then you type your "password".  This is your
authentication, the part that proves that you are you.  You must keep
your password secret, or other people may claim to be you.

The reason to keep the SSN secret is when it works like
authentication, i.e. like a password that opens doors for you.

The "personal numbers" used in Sweden, on the other side, only work
as identification, and you still need other means for authentication,
most commonly a handwritten signature or an ID card with a photo.  If
anybody signs a paper with your name, that is fraud, but just
presenting the number is not enough for getting a credit card or
withdrawing money from a bank account.  Swedish personal numbers are
printed on tax forms, pay checks, drivers licenses, and just about
everywhere.  This makes administration a lot easier, because a lot of
us have names like John Larsson, Sven Johnsson, and Anders Andersson.

Lars Aronsson.
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