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Congressman John Larson

Representing the 1st District of Connecticut

Larson Opening Statement at Social Security Subcommittee Hearing on the Future of the Social Security Number

May 18, 2018
Press Release


(As prepared for delivery)

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today’s important hearing.

 

The recent data breach at Equifax has left more than 145 million people wondering whether they will have their identity stolen or credit damaged.

 

Their ability to get a mortgage, a small-business loan, or even a job is at the whim of criminals, whose use of that stolen information would wreak havoc on their financial security.

 

It doesn’t matter if you’re in Plano, Texas or Hartford, Connecticut – or whether you are 6 weeks old or 96 years – cyber criminals don’t care. Their only interest is in profiting from your identity in a way that makes them as much money as possible. 

 

Unfortunately, Equifax is just one in a long list of data breaches where personal information about hard-working men and women has been compromised, including Social Security numbers.

 

The problem of identity theft is well known and it affects our entire economy. We need to come together in a bipartisan way to strengthen privacy protections and safeguard financial security.

 

All users of the Social Security Number – both government and business – need to change their ways.

The widespread use of the Social Security Number as a way to both identify and authenticate individuals poses an ongoing risk of identity theft.

 

The Number is valuable to identity thieves because too often it serves a dual purpose:

  • it is used to identify which John Larson is trying to conduct a transaction, but
  • it is also used to authenticate that the person pretending to be me, really is me. 

 

This practice assumes that only I have access to my Social Security Number.

 

But given the extensive data breaches, this is no longer a safe assumption – as I believe our witnesses will all agree.

 

I am looking forward to hearing our witnesses’ suggestions about better ways to ensure that online and digital transactions are safe and secure.

 

There is a role here both for government and for industry. Unfortunately, there are steep headwinds in this fight.

 

The pace of innovation in the technologies used by cyber criminals presents a difficult challenge. The threat landscape evolves continuously – and we have not kept up.

At the same, we must be sure that the solutions that are adopted to better protect personal information are available to all Americans, regardless of their technological sophistication.

 

Finally, we must keep Americans’ privacy concerns in mind – about how data is collected about individuals, how it is used, and who controls it. 

 

Just as we must come together to protect Americans’ personal identity information, we should also come together to protect the future of Social Security itself.

 

For example, I think we should hold a hearing on my bill, the Social Security 2100 Act. It’s time to expand the most successful program in American history.

 

I hope that we can begin to make progress on all of these issues.

 

I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses here today, and I look forward to continuing to work with you, Mr. Chairman, and the other members of this Committee to find solutions that work for all Americans.

 

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