Know Your Customers, Not Their SSNs Last month, the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security and the Oversight and Government Reform IT Subcommittee examined efforts by federal agencies to reduce the use of Social Security numbers (SSNs) and the security challenges facing these agencies.

While there are mixed results about efforts to reduce the use of the SSN across federal agencies, the ongoing dependency on the SSN points to a larger issue facing government – many rely on this number to represent a customer, but they do not really know that customer.

ID Experts for Government: Federal Government Capabilities Statement

The SSN or any other set of digits does not represent the needs, wants or expectations of a customer. To get to know their customers, agency program managers should use all available customer interaction data to uniquely identify the customer, understand their needs and engage with that customer using their preferred communication channel.

All this starts with an enterprise effort to treat customer interaction data as an enterprise asset that can be used more than once to better serve customers.

The increasing use of medical identity alerts is one example of how leading executives are making better use of customer interaction data. With medical identity theft growing at a rate of 20% per year, executives are increasingly concerned about patient safety issues since medical identity theft has rightly been called the privacy crime that can kill 1

By sending an alert to inform a customer that their medical identity has been used in a claim, customers are engaged as the first line of defense to protect their own medical identity and increase patient safety.

Increasing patient safety is not the only use of the interaction data: Executives also see the value of crowd sourced data as a unique data point that can be integrated into an enterprise’s fraud analytics platform to identify new patterns of fraud and abuse.

By all means, let’s throw away the superfluous use of the SSN as much as possible. At the same time, the overall customer experience can be greatly enhanced when agencies use existing data better and for more than one purpose.

ID Experts for Government: Federal Government Capabilities Statement

1California Department of Justice Report on “Medical Identity Theft, Recommendations for the Age of Electronic Medical Records” October ’13.