The SSA has learned a lesson that could be applicable to other agencies regarding the public’s preferences in interacting with the government online.
Last summer the agency added an additional security measure, commonly called two-factor identification, to its online mySocialSecurity service. That site allows users to check their earnings records, get projections of future benefits, and more. More than 30 million people have such accounts, making it one of the largest such services run by any federal agency.
In addition to the user name and password, SSA required users to enter a number sent to a cell phone by text messaging before access is granted. However, there was immediate push-back from members of the public who do not have cell phones or who did not wish to provide their numbers. Members of the Senate Aging Committee and retiree interest groups urged SSA to change the policy.
“We listened to your concerns, and beginning on June 10, you can choose either your cell phone or your email address as the second way for us to identify you,” SSA said in a recent message to account holders.
However, it noted that there is a risk that the user’s email program will filter out SSA’s reply email with the needed code. To prevent that, users will have to add firstname.lastname@example.org to their allowed senders list.