if you don’t care about the story and just came here looking for the short answer: you can bypass the social security number by using the following number instead: 141-11-1111. this is the number at&t uses internally for cases where they want to permit customers to bypass the ssn field. your phone will be registered but you have two options: either you can pay a security deposit of $90 to $1000 ( since they can’t run a credit check without a ssn) or you can register for a pre-paid plan.
for those interested in the story, a friend of mine bought an iphone last week but when he went to activate it (he didn’t want to jailbreak/sim-free it), he ran into a problem: the registration process requires a social security number but because he is an international student, he doesn’t have one. i googled around for a while and all i could find was either alarmist articles on why you shouldn’t send your social security number over to at&t (remember at&t is the company that gave unchecked, back-door access to all your information to the nsa) or articles on why you shouldn’t buy an iphone at all if you don’t have a ssn.
what will apple they do with such sensitive information? will they protect it? do they really need to collect it? these are questions that privacy advocates are demanding answers for–and rightfully so. gone are the days where consumers should just provide such sensitive information because someone asks for it and cannot imagine why apple would need this information–it just doesn’t seem necessary.
anyway, i got on the phone with a customer support agent to resolve my problem. after putting me on hold for 15 minutes, she told me that i could enter the number 141-11-1111 (a number they internally use that let’s you bypass the ssn) in the social security number field and i would be ready to go. the only catch is that if you don’t enter your ssn, you either have to pay a security deposit between $90 and $1,000 or you can sign up for a pre-paid plan.