christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie
U.S. Rep. John Larson speaks to reporters in August 2017 at the Connecticut Riverfront in East Hartford (christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

New rules that Facebook has adopted regarding political ad buys have raised concerns within the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee where John Larson is the ranking Democrat.

The panel has sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressing reservations that the social media company plans to collect the last four digits of Social Security numbers of those purchasing political ads on its web platform.

“Given the bipartisan concerns about the problem of identity theft, including the risk associated with SSNs being stolen, it is important for us to understand how these numbers will be used and how they will be protected,” wrote Larson and Texas Republican Sam Johnson, who chairs the panel.

Rob Leathern, the company’s director of product management, said in a statement to the Washington Times that Facebook uses the Social Security numbers to help verify an advertiser’s identity. The information is encrypted and deleted after the authorization is complete.

Larson and Johnson, however, are concerned about the broader issue of protecting Social Security numbers from identity theft.

“Authenticators based on personal information only work if that information is kept private, but hundreds of millions of SSNs are effectively no longer confidential because of massive data breaches and availability on the dark web,” they wrote. “At the same time, the continued use of SSNs as either an identifier or an authenticator (or both) for everything from enrolling a child in school to creating a credit record is what makes them so valuable to identity thieves and cybercriminals.”

Larson this week also introduced legislation, H.R. 6084, with Republican Mike Bishop of Michigan to require the Social Security Administration to provide a single point of contact at the agency to any individual requesting a new Social Security number due to identity theft or who is dealing with identity theft issues related to their Social Security benefits.

“In this day and age when we are increasingly vulnerable to online hacking of our identities, it is critical that individuals have a source they can reach out to for assistance when identity theft has caused problems with their Social Security number or benefits,” Larson said in a press release.

“Everyone has gotten the runaround from a cumbersome phone tree, and this common-sense legislation would support victims of identity theft by assigning them a single point of contact at the Social Security Administration to ensure their cases are handled with the care and attention they deserve,” said Bishop, a member of the subcommittee.


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