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A Number For Everything 598

Posted by timothy
from the at-least-there's-no-potential-for-abuse dept.
jtcampbell writes: "Whilst reading the Times today I found this article about a U.S. government idea to give everyone a unique 'ENUM,' that serves as a universal phone number, email address, and fax number. Quite a cool idea, but will everyone adopt the standard? besides, i thought we left numeric email addresses with compuserve a few years back. And remembering these 11 digit numbers could be fun ..."
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A Number For Everything

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  • Universal SPAM!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maul (83993) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:06PM (#2249388) Journal
    Oh great, now it will be even easier for spammers to make sure their junk reaches everyone.
  • by david614 (10051) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:07PM (#2249392) Journal
    In a country where people regularly protest business using the social security number as a unique identifier, I can't wait to see the congressional hearings once this hits the fan.

  • Changing numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SBChoDogg (93091) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:08PM (#2249395)
    What about changing your number? With regular phone numbers and email addresses you can change them if you get too many prank phone calls or too much spam. If everyone had a unique number issued by the government, which would probably be easy for others to find, I think we would run into all kinds of privacy issues.
  • Ehhh. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BiggestPOS (139071) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:09PM (#2249399) Homepage
    1984, Brave New World, uhhh whats some other trite analogies. If the "Net" is really going to expand and cover the actual globe, take over every aspect of life, and not crash under its own weight, a system like this, as much as the real geeks would hate it at first, will be necessary. Now granted, I'm thinking fairly far into the future, but the current system deosn't really cut it as far as absolutely guranteeing identity. Privacy should be retained yes, and this system probably isn't going to be the one, but a few false-starts are sure to happen before we find the "right" combination.

  • Think, child! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by General_Corto (152906) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:11PM (#2249407)

    And remembering these 11 digit numbers could be fun ...

    Well, I'm sure you don't remember lots of (up to) 12 digit sequences that already exist, but have no problems remembering things like 'slashdot.org' and 'www.userfriendly.org'. As in the Internet, so with life. If you want to do this right, you'd have some form of "Personal Name System" to act as an equivalent to the "Domain Name System" we already seem to use quite successfully.
  • by loconet (415875) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:12PM (#2249410) Homepage
    i have more than one main telephone number? does one get an enum and the other doesnt? .. do i get two enums? what if i only have one email and two phone #'s?, Im sure they'll sove this problems, yet it should be interesting how they go about doing it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:12PM (#2249412)
    This will never come about. Why? Fundamentalist Christians will identify this ENUM with the "mark of the beast" in the Book of Revelations. I know that sounds bizarre, but there are some people out there with some really odd belief systems. And there are enough of these people to actually have an influence on government policy.
  • Re:ICQ (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:21PM (#2249442) Homepage Journal
    I think ICQ UINs work because for the most part we don't care about them. You only need a UIN when you're setting up a new ICQ instance on a computer somewhere, and you only have to remember your own. The rest can be found using the search features of ICQ fairly easily (assuming your friends don't change their information constantly). It's not like you say "Hmm, I want to contact person X, what was his 12 digit number again?"
  • by os2fan (254461) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:22PM (#2249449) Homepage
    The idea of people identifying themselves on the net is rather interesting, but we also have to address that people may have a legitimate need to have more than one name.

    The following is a sample of people who might need more than one identity:

    • Battered wives hiding from husbands.
    • Witness protection programs
    • Whistle-Blowers and others wanting to be semi-anomonious
    • People having strong gender dysphoria, wishing to have a foot in each gender. [Yes, it's a real condition that has a high suicide rate, because the mind and body don't get along that well.]
    So we should consider the identity issues before we start slamming other doors first.

  • Re:ICQ (Score:3, Insightful)

    by agentZ (210674) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:24PM (#2249455)
    Yes, but ICQ lets you give a user an alias that you see on the screen. You don't get messages from "1636181," they show up as "Tammy says:" Plus, It's far easier for humans to recognize the error between "Stephen" and "Stepehn" than "1636181" and "1631681"
  • My Mother... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by philovivero (321158) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:31PM (#2249473) Homepage Journal
    ... recalls when the United States government propaganda pointed out that the Soviet Union "gives every citizen a number that identifies them." Of course, it was implied that the United States was better than such a totalitarian regime that treats its citizens like sheep or automatons.

    Sigh.
  • by ArticulateArne (139558) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:36PM (#2249489)
    This could be nifty, but one of the great parts of modern technology is being able to use different means of access to regulate people's contact with you. The easiest example, of course, is spam. I have about six different email addresses that I use on a regular basis, and the email address I give to a person or website is based on how I want them to be able to contact me. I have a Hotmail box entirely for the purpose of collecting spam (and boy, does it do a good job). That's the only thing it does, and that's the address that I give out on any website (and any other spam-generating contexts), so I know that anything that comes into there was not requested.

    I also have a cell phone, and I'm very careful with whom I give that number. There are some people that I absolutely want to have it; there are other people that, under no circumstances, would I want them to have it. It's the same at work. I give some people my direct desk extension, and I send some people through the secretary. Having a universal access number like that could cause no end of grief for people, and eliminate one of the great ways of escaping contact when that's necessary.

    Also, IIRC (and I'm sorry, but I don't feel like checking this out), I thought that originally it was illegal to use a SSN to track anything other than Social Security. Of course, people use it for everything now, but I'm not so sure that's a good idea.

    My $.02

  • by Alien54 (180860) on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:56PM (#2249558) Journal
    Someone was going to post this eventually.

    True enough.

    Although this goes back to the ancient paranoia of big government of any kind. although originally this was ancient Rome.

    There is a large community of people who are always going to oppose things like this just for this specific reason.

    Think of what MS could do with this sort of Government Standard, for example.

    It all does come down to a matter of trust. and sadly, the number of people and organizations that we normally can trust implicity with this sort of thing are tragically few.

    Until then, this sort of thing is probably a bad idea. Just because of the problem of trust, and the few bad apples.

    - - -
    Radio Free Nation [radiofreenation.com]
    If You have the Story, We have the Soap Box

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2001 @08:59PM (#2249563)
    But _you_ have to prove _your_ data is better than theirs. How odd. And in the meantime their service is f***d up because of the incorrect data. Not really only their problem. (I can think of other examples, any bureaucracy)
  • by heretic108 (454817) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:45PM (#2249697)
    I could see the system working well, and resisting spam, if the following safeguards are put in place
    1) No message to be delivered to an ENUM unless it's from another ENUM
    2) No interference with existing email addresses - allow these to keep being used
    3) Allow ENUM users to set 'privacy policies' on their ENUM, including 'no unsolicited promotional material'. Sending spam to an ENUM in defiance of applicable policies to be a criminal offense.
  • by gilmae (123361) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:47PM (#2249704) Homepage
    What could be more individual than a number? It not like there's more than one 123361.
  • by turbod (114654) on Monday September 03, 2001 @10:09PM (#2249807)
    First there is the reference in revelations, for those who believe, but if you don't, take a look at some facts.

    Over and over again we are conditioned to believe that our government has our best interests in mind, and only wants to improve our convenience with ID systems, all the while gathering enormous amounts of data that is continuously generated and offered by the citizens of this nation, so they can better plan our cities, etc. But truth be known -- take a look back at RedWitchHunt days of our nation, and genetic purification -- all ID data usually does is allow someone to have a bit of data over on someone else. I know several Russians who were unfortunate to be here during those sad times. Their SSN numbers and linked nationality data were in fact used against them. You say it won't happen again? Whatever... say, I have some land down in Florida I'd like to sell ya... you are just the idi...errr... customer for this special land I have been looking for!

    I guess as with all such schemes that deal with the ID of the average citizen, we have once again gotten comfortable with all the easy things that a hash function applied to database key can bring (be it hashed alphabetically on paper, molten silicon switches (tubes), or silicon die with metal on top). Government now believes we are ready to be ID'd with precision, and then additionally, easily located. What happens then when the wrong people get this data, sort of like McCarthy-ism? They know with absolute precision who you are, where you live, and all they have to do is key you into the global routing system (PING) and wham, they can drive the paddy wagon right to your door for easy, no-muss pickup. Say what you want about the wonders about ID technology, nothing about it turns me on. DNA is good enough, after all, the cops are not supposed to have easy jobs. They don't need to find me unless I performed a "crime against humanity" anyway.

    So whatever.... if you want someone to know your every thought and move, then fine. Oh, I forgot, this is Richard Stallman's harem. You wouldn't understand, that just as with gun control, the very people who would be best ID'd and tracked are the very ones who will be the ones that stay under (or over) the system. When average people will figure this out instead of mewling in line for the latest public safety/super-duper-consumer convenience fad, then perhaps we will have a truly safe society where the line in the sand over privacy will be clearly drawn.

    Additionally, I remember one poster endorsing the idea that a ID system that eliminated privacy would be the great equalizer. You, my son, are no more brilliant than the doorstop my cat knaws on nightly. There will always be those outside of the system, and anyone outside of the system and not subject to its laws, can dominate/play said system ot their sole advantage. Start using your brain, and quit thinking like a socialist. Any communal equalization system will end in failure. It always does, always will. I'm not sure what the blissful fascination with socialism is.... yeah, it looks good on paper, just like a dot com, but it sucks in real life.

    I am now wearing a fire suit, and the halon is near. Bring it on!

    Good-day to you,

    TurboD
  • by Justin Cave (945) <(moc.cnicbdd) (ta) (evacj)> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @06:31AM (#2250819) Homepage
    The main problem with the social security numbers being used as identifiers is that far too many places treat it as both a username & a password. They assume, wrongly, that only you know your SSN, so they allow people to identify and authenticate themselves with a single number. If we moved to a system where everyone had a unique identifier that was public knowledge, companies would use it solely as an identifier, not as a means of authentication. That can only be a good thing.
  • by gnovos (447128) <gnovos AT chipped DOT net> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @12:49PM (#2252091) Homepage Journal
    You forgot something. What happens to the famous people? Sure, Madonna could block MY ENUM account after my first few love-sick-stalker emails, but how does she expect to stop hundreds of millions of those?

Maybe Computer Science should be in the College of Theology. -- R. S. Barton

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