The Trump administration is considering replacing Social Security numbers as the main method of verifying Americans’ identities.
The consideration comes as the fallout continues from consumer credit agency Equifax’s massive data breach earlier this summer that affected more than a hundred million Americans.
The administration has asked federal agencies to look into vulnerabilities in using retirement benefits identifies and replacing the existing system, according to Bloomberg News.
“I feel very strongly that the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness,” Rob Joyce, special assistant to the president and White House cybersecurity coordinator, said at theWashington Post‘s Cybersecurity Summit on Tuesday. “Every time we use the Social Security number, you put it at risk.”
Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who stepped down following the breach, also told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that Social Security numbers were not a reliable form of verifying identities anymore.
“The concept of a Social Security number in this environment being private and secure—I think it’s time as a country to think beyond that,” Smith said, according to TechRepublic. “What is a better way to identify consumers in our country in a very secure way? I think that way is something different than an SSN, a date of birth, and a name.”
Joyce said the administration is looking into a “modern cryptographic identifier,” such as public and private keys. The problem with Social Security numbers, Joyce reportedly said, is they cannot easily be changed if they become compromised in a cybersecurity breach.
Earlier this summer, Equifax announced that its data had been breached, affecting 145 million people. The stolen data included Social Security numbers, addresses, driver’s license data, and birth dates. Top executives have left the company and members of Congress have called for an investigation and introduced bills to reform the consumer credit industry.