of an Ex-Social Security Number Giver
by Dr. Patricia Campbell
I was young and naive, I was full of pride at having a real number of
my own, one that was verified by a piece of paper issued by the United
States Government. I had my own unique social security number. It didn't
bother me that some of my greedy friends had several social security numbers.
It didn't even bother me when two of my multi-card friends found they
shared the same number. After all the government was in charge of social
security numbers, and they wouldn't louse up anything as important, as
So my social security number and I continued I our relationship. Its red
and white card said, "Not For Identification Purposes," but
what did that mean? 172-38-7613 and I were one.
As the card and I grew older and we both lost some of our shine, I memorized
my number and put the card in a safe place where it could be retrieved
in case of emergency or memory lapse. But there really wasn't much chance
that I would forget those nine digits, because everyone kept asking me
what they were. At first I proudly reeled off the number and waited for
people to respond, "Oh, you memorized it." But soon I began
to wonder if the Social Security Administration really needed to know
about things like my telephone calls and my electric light bill in order
to figure out how much money I was entitled to upon retirement.
So when the gas company asked for my social security number, I asked them
if They were going to contribute to my social security check They said
no, I said, why do you need the number, and the clerk looked around for
help. No one could tell me why they wanted that number, or what they were
going to do, with it, other than "Put it in a computer."
A computer, me, and my unique (or almost unique) number; all of a sudden
it started to make sense - the gas company, the telephone company, voter
registration, the office of motor vehicle, the credit offices, and even
the rent-a-car people would all have information about me under the same
number. And without my permission or even knowledge, all this information,
correct or not (I started remembering my two friends with the same number)
could be put together. With visions of George Orwell and 1984 on one side
and the Bill of Rights on the other, a private revolution was born.
The credo of this revolution would be simple and hopefully easy to live
with. "NO LONGER WOULD ANYONE WHO DIDN'T HAVE A LEGAL RIGHT TO
MY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER GET IT."
My credo was first tested when it came time to change my driver's license.
As the burly state trooper asked for my social security number my resolve
weakened and I asked, "What would you do if I wouldn't give you my
social security number?" "Give you another number," was
his response, and another number I got.
It hasn't always been that easy; in fact, a predisposition toward threatening
people with your lawyer is very helpful in this revolution. Through the
use of patience, threats and repetition ("You can't deny me my right
to vote because I won't give you my social security number" repeated
50 times at unequal intervals works wonders), I have had numerous successes
and only one failure (Federal law demands your social security number
for checking accounts).
So onward I go, forever confident that when the CIA and FBI ever get around
to my file, it will be a little harder for them to fill it.
(By the way, the social security number I used in the story isn't mine;
I don't give my social security number, remember.)
Dr. Campbell is an Assistant Professor in Educational Foundations
at Georgia State University, teaching graduate educational research and
methods of evaluation. She is active in research and lecturing on sex-role
stereotyping, as well as in rape prevention. She is also a member of the
Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
Her fight against the use of social security numbers for any and everything
has been a long standing battle against invasion of personal privacy and
the constant collection of unnecessary information by many private and
From CREATIVE COMPUTING, Volume1, Number 8, November-December
1975. Published by Ideametrics, 20 Lynnfield Drive, Morristown, NJ 07960.
This article was scanned from the original publication using a Hewlett-Packard
ScanJet Plus optical scanner, HP AccuScan Software and printed on a HP
LaserJet III printer. Microsoft Word 5 was used for final editing. SSNUMS.DOC.
This file was lost and only a printed copy survived. It was scanned August
11, 2001, using the HP ScanJet 6300 and OmniPage Pro 11 for OCR.
Dr. Campbell, gave permission for use Tue, 20 Nov 2001 17:12:47.