SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS: Government Benefits from SSN Use but Could Provide Better Safeguards
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC ACQUISITION AND SOURCING MANAGEMENT
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The Social Security number SSN was created in 1936 as a means to track workers earnings and eligibility for Social Security benefits. Since that time, the number has been used for myriad non-Social Security purposes. Private sector use of the SSN has grown exponentially. For example, businesses may ask individuals to provide their SSNs when they apply for credit, seek medical or other insurance coverage, rent an apartment, or place an order for merchandise. In addition, many federal, state, and local government agencies also use the SSN. In some cases, these government agencies use SSNs as they administer their programs to deliver services or benefits to the public. Individuals who provide SSNs to receive these services and benefits may expect the SSNs to be considered confidential and thus protected from public disclosure. In other cases, government agencies serve as the repository for records or documents that are routinely made available to the public for inspection. These public records may contain SSNs.
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