Proposal to Protect Children's Identities Sparks Debate Among Privacy Advocates


The 17-10 Solution

Based upon the model of the Social Security Death Index, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the 17-10 Registry would contain the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of every person under the age of 17 years and 10 months. Every time an application would be submitted for credit or employment, it would have to be matched against the 17-10 database. If there were a match, credit extenders and employers would be required to investigate further before approving or hiring.

The sheer existence of such a registry, which might logically fall under the purview of the Commerce Department, would provide a powerful prophylactic against identity thieves because it addresses the inability of credit issuers and others to match the Social Security numbers of minors with birth dates and names.

As expected, this proposal has generated spirited debate between privacy advocates and supporters.

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Those in opposition argue that such an omnibus compilation of children's personal identifying information is dangerous, especially if the agency which administers it fails to properly secure it. Suddenly in one fell swoop, an enterprising hacker would have access to an entire vulnerable segment of the population. Undoubtedly, this repository would be the ultimate pot of gold at the end of the breach rainbow.

The counter-argument is that we cannot shirk our responsibility to protect those who need protection out of fear that we won't be up to the task. We cannot live in fear of "what if."

A More Unique Identifier

Another alternative might be the development of a unique identification system by which minors would be issued an eight or ten-digit number that that would be changed to the traditional nine-digit Social Security Number when the minor turns 18.

Whatever solution is ultimately reached, there is no question that we have an epidemic within a pandemic that must be addressed as quickly as possible. Otherwise, this invisible destruction of young lives will continue, with little resistance.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Adam Levin is Chairman and cofounder of and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.

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