Following the recent Equifax data breach that affected 143 million Americans, the administration has called on various federal departments and agencies to look into the vulnerabilities of the Social Security number system and what alternatives may exist.
Several proposed encryption methods are being considered to replace the current vulnerable 9-digit numbers. An idea being looked at is a private key that is basically a very long encrypted number that would require a pass code or pin, similar to a chip coded credit/debit card. Fortunately for Medicare users, Medicare cards will no longer brand Social Security numbers on them. Instead they will be replaced by a new set of number identifiers starting in April 2018.
When the Social Security Administration started issuing numbers in 1936, the intent was to track U.S. workers’ earnings in order to determine their Social Security benefits. Over the decades various government agencies and private companies started using the numbers as a general identifier, which was never the original intent. In order to do away with Social Security numbers, it would need to be voted on and approved by Congress.
Sources: Social Security Administration, Medicare.gov