BASIC (08-09)

RM 10201.001 Purpose and Disclosure of the Social Security Number (SSN)

A. Purpose of the SSN

The nine-digit SSN was originally devised to keep an accurate record of each individual's earnings (i.e., to reliably distinguish each individual's record of earnings from all others). Today, the SSN is also used to monitor benefits paid under the Social Security program.

B. Policy for disclosure of a number holder's (NH) SSN

Despite its narrowly drawn intended purpose, the use of the SSN as a general identifier has grown to the point where it is the most commonly used and convenient identifier for all types of record-keeping systems and data exchanges in the U.S. Certain government uses of the SSN are specified by law. However, SSA records are confidential and SSA employees are responsible for safeguarding the confidentiality of SSA's records.

1. Disclosure by SSA

SSA does not disclose a number holder's SSN or confidential information related to the individual's enumeration record unless authorized to do so under Regulation No. 1 (20 CFR Part 401) or unless the number holder consents. (For disclosure with consent, see GN 03305.000.)

2. Disclosure by the number holder

The Privacy Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-579) provides that any Federal, State, or local government agency who asks a NH to disclose his or her SSN must tell the number holder:

  • Whether disclosure is mandatory or voluntary;

  • By what statutory or other authority the disclosure is solicited;

  • Why the information is being collected; and

  • What the effects are of not providing the information.

3. Disclosure by third parties

SSA has no responsibility for, or control over, disclosure of the number holder's SSN by a third party once the number holder furnishes it to a third party.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0110201001
RM 10201.001 - Purpose and Disclosure of the Social Security Number (SSN) - 05/17/2010
Batch run: 05/17/2010
Rev:05/17/2010