SOCIAL SECURITY: “No one intended for the Social Security number to become the cornerstone of Americans’ financial lives. But it has, and the Equifax Inc. hack has shown how ill-suited the nine-digit figure is to this role.
Now, bankers and policy makers are saying it is time to find a better tool to help establish an individual’s identity. The trouble is, at least when it comes to finance, there is no easy replacement.
Having a universal, standardized data point for establishing someone’s identity has helped fuel the drive toward increasingly seamless digital access to financial services and credit. Millions of consumers can open a bank account or get approved for a credit card online with just a few pieces of information, among them their Social Security number.
Alternatives are available, including ones based on smartphones or biometric data. But they each come with their own problems, and rarely have the ubiquity of Social Security numbers…
But the flaws in the status quo are becoming increasingly apparent. The Equifax breach exposed Social Security numbers, along with other vital pieces of information used to authenticate someone’s identity, of potentially 145.5 million Americans.
That has prompted policy makers to think about ways to cut back on the use of Social Security numbers. Earlier this month, the Trump administration’s top cybersecurity official said the Social Security number has ‘outlived its usefulness.’ Last week, a top Republican in Congress introduced a bill that would require the major credit-reporting firms to phase out by 2020 the use of Social Security numbers to verify consumers’ identities.

-Telis Demos and Peter Rudegeair, “Social Security Numbers: Hacked, Hated—and Irreplaceable,” The Wall Street Journal online, Oct. 16, 2017 05:30am