Amid reports of massive breach of social security numbers along with identity theft, US lawmakers, encouraged by India’s Aadhaar, explored the possibility of biometrics as an option, but privacy issues prevented experts from arriving at a consensus. In the US, a Social Security Number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued to American citizens, permanent residents and temporary working residents. “Congress must not replace the SSN with a national biometric identifier. This would be a very bad idea,” Samuel Lester, Consumer Privacy Counsel, Electronic Privacy Information Center told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on future of social security numbers. This approach, he said, would pose serious privacy and security risks.“These risks would only be compounded if the US were to move towards a national biometric identifier,” Lester said. Paul Rosenzweig, senior fellow, R Street Institute tended to disagree. “It really is a difference between a centralised database in a distributed database. Biometrics as a localised identifier is actually something that the President (Barack) Obama’s White House supported as a substitute for passwords because they are a more readily usable by most citizens than the password system,” Rosenzweig said responding to questions on biometrics from Congressman John Larson.According to Steve Grobman, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, McAfee, said India opted for the biometric system because they needed to ensure that an individual only registered a single time for benefits. “So, by using biometrics, it prevented an individual from registering in one town and then walking down the road to another town and registering again. In that case, bio-metrics was a practical technology in order to solve that specific problem,” he said. The US does not has that problem at India’s scale, he said.
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