This week, the Trump administration announced that it is exploring ways to replace the use of Social Security numbers as the main method of assuring people’s identities, with a safer system based on modern technology. This comes in the wake of consumer credit agency Equifax Inc.’s massive data breach.
Emin Gun Sirer is an associate professor of computer science at Cornell University and co-director of Cornell’s Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3). His research interests span operating systems, cryptocurrencies, and software infrastructure for large scale services. Gun Sirer says replacing social security numbers with cryptographic keys would greatly enhance privacy, allowing people to have a different identifier at each bank.
Gun Sirer says:
“Replacing social security numbers with cryptographic keys, coupled with error detecting codes, would be a huge step in the right direction. It would make it much more difficult to forge identities, enhance user privacy, and provide a new, secure communication channel between the government and individuals. It would also enhance privacy by allowing people to have a different identifier at each bank.
“We have known for some time that social security numbers were deeply flawed. They were easy to guess, easy to mistype, and difficult to recall after a leak. The Equifax disaster is the perfect opportunity to deploy better technology, built on the last 40 years of research in cryptography.”