I don't think such efforts are futile, but they make me sick anyway because they are in fact focusing on the fringes of a problem rather than attacking the root.
Free flow of information is a good thing, not a bad thing. And information such as social security numbers and bank account numbers don't even have personal privacy value.
The root of the identity theft problem is people reporting false, slanderous information to credit reporting bureaus. A bank says "John Doe borrowed $5000 from me and never paid it back," when in fact the bank has never dealt with John Doe (it dealt with some stranger who said he was John Doe).
The penalties that should be enhanced are those for reporting this false information. And also for using it to deny someone credit. Those penalties would cause creditors to demand more proof of identity than just, "I know his account number."
And then we should provide a convenient way to prove identity. Digital signatures would work great, but need some kind of push, probably from government, to get to the practical level. Same with smart cards.
As long as measures like keeping social security numbers secret keep the problem beat down, there isn't going to be motivation to tear it out by the roots.
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