From time to time we hear of some urban legends and myths in connection with social security numbers (SSNs).

One myth has it that SSNs label citizens based on their race or origins. Another myth is that a number can be decoded to spell out names. Let’s debunk these myths.

Regarding the first  myth, according to the SS Administration site (http://www.ssa.gov/history/ssnmyth.html):

“Apparently due to the fact that the middle digits of the SSN are referred to as the “group number,” some people have misconstrued this to mean that the “group number” refers to racial groupings. So a myth goes around from time-to-time that encoded in a person’s SSN is a key to their race. This simply is not true.”

“As should be clear from the explanation of the SSN numbering scheme, the “group number” refers only to the numerical groups 01-99. For filing purposes, the “area numbers” are broken down into these numerical subgroups. So, for example, for area numbers starting with 527 there would be 99 subgroups, one for every number starting with 527-01, and one for every number starting with 527-02, and so on. This was done back in 1936 because in that era there were no computers and all the records were stored in filing cabinets. The early program administrators needed some way to organize the filing cabinets into sub-groups, to make them more manageable, and this is the scheme they came up with.”

“So the “group number” has nothing whatever to do with race.”

Still, some folks like this Google user heard that the fifth digit of a SSN is odd for whites, but even for african-americans and minorities. Not true.

Regarding the second myth. Some have claimed that flipping a SSN might closely spell or encode a name, word, message, etc.

For instance in Feb of 2008, Google won the Dylan Stephen Jayne v. Google Founders lawsuit. Jayne claimed that his social security number upside down spelled ‘Google’. He was seeking a $5 billion compensation.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania(PDF) dismissed the case and resolved in favor of Google that:

“As explained by the District Court, Google and its founders are not state actors, and Jayne’s allegation concerning his coded social security number does not constitute a violation of the Constitution or federal law. We also agree that any amendment of the complaint would be futile.”

I don’t know about you, but to me and based on pure speculations and font-family, flipping upside down ‘Google’ resembles 216009. 

But, there is a problem: this sequence can appear anywhere in a candidate SSN (beginning, end, etc).

True that we can narrow down possible sequences since according to the SSN site the middle two digits cannot be ’00’ in order to be a valid SSN. With all, three missing numbers are needed to complete a 9-digit sequence. Can you guess how to obtain these?

Still, this guessing exercise does not amount to a case. When it comes to guessing/gaming, you have the right to guess/game all you want to guess/game.

Now for those that believe in things like Numerology, Kabbalah, etc, 216009 can be reduced to 18 and then to 9. Upside down 9 resembles a 6 or a G, which is the first letter in Game, Gaming, Google, and God.

I have placed this post in the SEO Myth category just because the underlying nature of the above myths resembles the dumb nature of many of the myths promoted by SEOs.

Advertisements