A new trend in recruiting that I just read about is recruiters asking candidates to provide 'partial' SSN and birthdate information (like 4 or 5 SSN digits and day and month of BD). This is actually totally illegal in the state of California (or at least extremely poor form). Recruiters who are endorsing this practise need to be made aware that they are potentially/probably in violation of the law. No excuses.
It doesn't take much intelligence to figure out that two criminals working in tandem could easily deduce the entire SSN of a candidate by asking for different partial data, or even that one recruiter acting alone could request the second partial set of SSN digits some years later... another good reason why this practice should be stopped immediately.
Also, the last 4 digits of your SSN are the only unique digits in your SSN identity code. The first 3 digits can easily be guessed, knowing place of birth. Digits other than the last 4 are not nearly as critical in determining a person's identity. The middle 2 digits are a group number assigned for administrative purposes, so these are not unique, either. Researchers at CMU developed efficient algorithms to accurately guess most SSNs given the last 4 digits.
Please read the article below, which helps clarify the principles of employment law involved.
The caveat to that would be companies that track candidate submittals/former employees using the last four of the social security number. There are some large automotive companies here in Michigan that track their employees this way. If a contract house submits a candidate, they have to use the last four for tracking purposes. The client can check their database for rehire eligibililty. It was the case many years ago, I assume it still is, although it could have changed I suppose.
Definitely illegal in California, but maybe not so in Detroit. However, given the many bankruptcies of Detroit companies, and the need for a federal bail-out of the city, I would question the judgment of anyone providing crucial identity data to said bankrupt companies, who might (Enron-like) be out to leverage the assets of hopeful employees to their own benefit.
I think a stronger policy would be to teach the candidates 'backbone', and have them deny the companies such data on the first round.
Otherwise, I think Detroit is setting itself up for a grand slap in the face (such as GM recently received) in a class-action lawsuit. I can only imagine how many hungry litigation attorneys are already salivating at the thought of suing such instances of 'privacy invasion' for the maximum penalty allowed by law.
IF a company truly 'needs' to track candidate submittals, why don't they ask for "last place you went on vacation", "favorite color", and "favorite celebrity"? That list of questions should be sufficiently unique, and far less invasive of people's private data.
In an era when identity theft is rife, and hacking and cyber-espionage are so common, who can afford not to be cautious?
Actually, companies that DO track employees/former employees/candidates are trying to protect themselves against fraud. People who worked there in the past and perhaps stole, damaged product, violence in the workplace, etc.
If you don't like it, don't work there. I think it's unfair to pick on Detroit as a whole, especially with such a negative view.
There is nothing wrong with tracking employees to prevent fraud, etc., as far as I am concerned. However SSN and partial DOB are completely unnecessary to request to accomplish that. If they are 'former employees' being tracked, then the company should already have their SSN, anyway. It doesn't really make any legitimate sense to require that information.