You know that advertisement where the CEO (Todd Davis) gives out his social security number and tells you how secure it is because he uses his company's product to protect his identity information? Well, there have been 20 people who used his social security number to get a drivers license. And there was one "guy in Texas who duped an online payday loan operation last year into giving him $500 using Davis' Social Security number".
Today, I read a few articles (including this one and this one) that suggest that LifeLock should be chastised because it doesn't protect you against everything that one might think it should. My first reaction was to agree with the writers. I always knew there was no way for a product to protect your SSN against any or all unwanted uses. And they shouldn't claim it does. And ha ha for Mr. Davis' identity being compromised.
But, then I read Davis' rebuttal, "There's nothing on my actual credit report about uncollected funds, no outstanding tickets or warrants or anything" and I realized that this isn't really a case of a product not doing what it claims to do. It's a case of mis-aligned expectations about what a product can (or should) do.
It reminded me of all the times I've heard that some strong authentication technique isn't effective because it's susceptible to man-in-the-middle techniques. Sure it is, but that's the wrong problem. SSL was developed to solve that problem. There are certainly issues with SSL (mostly around user experience and education about how it works), but strong authentication is not the answer.
In the same way, there are problems with relying on SSN as authentication. And LifeLock won't protect against that. But, if it keeps your credit report clean, then maybe it's doing what it's supposed to. I haven't really followed the ads and I have no idea what the company promises its customers, but I thought I'd use this opportunity to remind you of the old cliche – there is no silver bullet. Analyze your risks and know which types of threats a security solution will be effective at protecting you against.
Correctly aligned expectations yield happy customers.