Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Yet again what happens on Facebook doesn't stay on Facebook

Facebook, other data help researcher crack Social Security codes
Washington -- For all the concern about identity theft, researchers say there's a surprisingly easy way for the technology-savvy to figure out the precious nine digits of Americans' Social Security numbers.

"It's good that we found it before the bad guys," said Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Acquisti and Ralph Gross report in today's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they were able to make the predictions using data available in public records as well as information such as birthdates cheerfully provided on social networks such as Facebook.

For people born after 1988 -- when the government began issuing numbers at birth -- the researchers were able to identify, in a single attempt, the first five Social Security digits for 44 percent of individuals. And they got all nine digits for 8.5 percent of those people in fewer than 1,000 attempts.
Oops. The article notes that the use of real names and their providing the town they were born in along with their date of birth made it possible to find their Social Security Number by a statistical formula.

This points out two distinct issues:
1. Don't leave so much of your personal date out where anyone can find it on sites such as Facebook.

2. The Social Security Agency needs to badly revamp how it issues Social Security numbers and stop using the current geographic and sequential system by which it is currently doling out the numbers.

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