Field of Science

Inferring Social Security Numbers from Birth Data

An article in July's PNAS investigates the possibility of predicting a person's Social Security number from their birth date and place. Exploiting patterns in how SSN's are assigned, authors Alessandro Acquisti and Ralph Gross developed an algorithm which could correctly predict the first 5 digits of a social security number 44% of the time, for people born after 1988 (older SSNs are significantly harder to predict). The accuracy varied from state to state; for smaller states and recent birthdays, the algorithm could sometimes predict an entire SSN on the first try.

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