Ousted Equifax CEO calls for public-private identity partnership to replace Social Security Number

In the wake of his “retirement” from Equifax, after the company potentially exposed the Social Security numbers of up to 143 million people, former CEO Richard Smith will tell the U.S. Congress that the current gold standard for identity in America is broken.

“We should consider the creation of a public-private partnership to begin a dialogue on replacing the Social Security Number as the touchstone for identity verification in this country,” Smith wrote in a prepared statement he will read to members of the U.S. House of Representatives this week. “It is time to have identity verification procedures that match the technological age in which we live.”

Smith will speak to the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection. His testimony comes a week after he was pushed out of Equifax, one of the “big three” credit scoring bureaus in the U.S.

Data from Equifax is used for everything from opening a bank account to obtaining a home mortgage, helping to verify that individuals are who they claim to be, and that their financial situation is strong enough to justify loans, credit cards and other assorted accounts.

In America, the Social Security Number is the de facto standard for verifying a person’s identity. It is also, in many ways, an outdated and insecure system, as evidenced by the potential problems that could come after up to 143 million SSNs were exposed through a hack of Equifax.

The Equifax data breach is among the largest in history, affecting nearly 60 percent of adults in the U.S. It has also brought about a wave of credit freezes as consumers attempt to regain control of their information.

The incident has renewed calls for the U.S. government and financial institutions to rethink and reinvent how they identify citizens and customers, as well as reconsidering what steps they take to secure highly sensitive personal data.

For more on credit scores and identity, see the OWI Labs intelligence report Bad Credit? No Credit? Big Identity Problem, which includes a proprietary framework for understanding the credit and trust scoring ecosystem based around one fundamental organizing principle: identity data. The report enables investors and entrepreneurs to gauge market opportunities and potential challenges emerging in the broad and dynamic credit scoring and trust assessment landscape.