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A Number For Everything 598

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 @09:06PM (#2249388) Journal
    Oh great, now it will be even easier for spammers to make sure their junk reaches everyone.
    • 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.
      • 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?
    • This is aparently an IETF initiative rather than a U.S. government initiative, however, given government backing, will contact through this mechanism be considered a means of official notification? By this I mean will the government then be able to deliver IRS documents and notifications via Email, and have them be considered legal notifications? This seems to present the potential problem of adoption by older generations of Americans, who either might not own a computer or other device (maybe fax machine) on which to print delivered documents. This would give Kinkos [kinkos.com] a whole new revenue streams. 'What? you want to recieve your absentee ballot? The printing fee is $5'. While I can't say this is definately wrong or inappropriate, but it certainly leaves an uneasy feeling...

  • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:06PM (#2249390) Homepage
    Its much bigger than just the US govt, they have a very minor role here. This is an IETF/ITU thing
    • by jaanderson ( 519213 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:49PM (#2249527)
      Switzerland has been assigning Distinguised Names and LDAP entries, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, for every child born. They were among the first but more have joined them, check out National Directories [dante.net]
    • It's no gov't scheme, it's the devil, I tell you... it's Satan! Watch out, do-gooders.... you're gonna be Numbered and you're all going to hell!
  • 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.

  • by Agent Green ( 231202 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:07PM (#2249393)
    Looks like something to replace the SSN, actually...and a _lot_ of damage can be done if that falls into the wrong person's hands. "Can I have your phone number?" Eeek.

    Speaking of which, I don't think SSNs can be replaced if stolen...maybe if you're in the Witness Protection Program...
    • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett&gmail,com> on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:31PM (#2249475)
      I had mine replaced/reassigned when I proved beyond any trace of doubt that "my" number had been assigned to someone else who was about my age born a few towns away. It was a completely bizarre situation, because I actually was casual acquaintances with the person.

      Basically the government officals I dealt with were mostly saying: "it cant be a duplicate- you must have stolen his or vice-versa.. double check your number with your original card..".

      After *months* of that, I simply got him to come with me to a main office of the SSA and went to the person who could authorize it, and forced him to look at the disparity. Even then he was hesitant, and had to call his superiors to find an answer.

      The main problem was apparently that most of the systems that I had given my SSN to over the year (government systems, that is) are hard-coded to accept SSN's as the primary key, and that changing it requires going in by hand and sorting out the good and bad keys manually. It tooks several months, but basically things are normal.

      EXCEPT for the hundreds of places that have my old SSN on record, and now need to change them. Try telling your bank that your SSN has changed - it will mess their entire world up.
      • That's funny. I had this argument with my Systems Design prof that went something like this:

        Prof: So, of these fields for the employee database, which would you use as the primary key: SSN, LAST_NAME, FIRST_NAME, or STREET_ADDRESS?

        Me: None of the above.

        Prof: Oh? The main requirements for a primary key is that the field be unique, and that the field not change. The SSN seems to fit that bill doesn't it?

        Me: No, not everyone has a SSN.

        Prof: This is an *employee* database. Of course they're all going to have SSNs.

        Me: But these are not in anywway guarnteed to be unique or not change.

        Prof: Oh, you're just talking silly things. Of course they're not going to change or be unique.

        Me: Do YOU trust the government that much?

        Prof: Stop being ridiculous.

        So, you see... I *was* right!!! Heh.

    • Witness Protection people get new SSNs.

      It is commonly believed (and probably true, it makes sense) that No Such Agency and perhaps some of its competitors inside the US government can alter or delete SSNs as well.

      That said, if this comes through, I want the ten nines. Barring that, a U-group code.


  • Changing numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SBChoDogg ( 93091 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:08PM (#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.

    • 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.

      Of course not! This way you can always be spammed, AND Microsoft can always keep track of you!
    • change them if you get too many prank phone calls or too much spam

      On the other hand, if everyone had a single unique ID number you would be able to easily block prank phone calls and spam.

  • Ehhh. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BiggestPOS ( 139071 )
    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.

  • by Anonymous Squonk ( 128339 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:10PM (#2249401) Journal
    Instead of 11 numbers, you could use just four kanji characters to cover the spread. And you get the added benefit of learning Japanese or Chinese in the process!
    • by Squeeze Truck ( 2971 ) <xmsho@yahoo.com> on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:38PM (#2249498) Homepage
      No need for four of them. A good Chinese dictionary (I mean the biiig ones) has 60,000 characters.

      60,000^3 = 216 Trillion combinations.

      Chinese people typically have 3-character names. A one-character family name and a two-character first name.

      So all we really need to do is give everyone on Earth a unique Chinese name! And since the characters might be hard to remember, you can tattoo it on their foreheads so the won't forget it.

      I know Southern Baptists especially will just love this idea!
  • Think, child! (Score:2, Insightful)

    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.
  • 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.
  • IPV6 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by frleong ( 241095 )
    I think that the US government should give everyone an IPV6 address and distribute the addresses via smartcards (or any memory device that can store it properly). It's a great way to mass introduce this new technology. Then, watch for new applications (malicious or not) derived from this unique ID.
  • by mwillems ( 266506 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:21PM (#2249443) Homepage
    This way, when you give someone your phone number you are giving them your social security noumber, tax number, medical identity, etc.

    The problem with that is that it opens you up to two things: abuse and honest mistakes. Both for obvious reasons would be real problems.

    Example. The credit agency in Canada seems to think I owe BMW money for a car. That is long gone (when the lease ended, I sold that car and bought a different make). Still, it's well neigh impossible to get that off the record. Now imagine everyone had that info!

    And another example. I recently changed medical insuramce companies at work, and that needed an AIDS test. Negative, I am happy to say. But if it had not been: if all these systems had been tied together (as they will be soon, with one number) that information would quite easily have got back to the bank, or the employer, etc.

    I think we need to be very careful indeed with systems that make it easier for people bad or good to track us and what we do.

    • By using this number, instead of having to steal your DNA and have it identified with all your personal info, they can just use the phone number you gave them. You know, to save costs and all that.
  • by CliffSpradlin ( 243679 ) <cliff.spradlin@nOspAm.gmail.com> on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:21PM (#2249444) Journal
    Does anyone else have deja vu? (THE PRISONER TV SERIES)
  • Might as well get the number tatooed on to the back of our necks as a bar code... it would be even easier to user then. [- Sepultura]. Personally, I don't want to be easily identified.
    • I remember reading about 10 years ago of a new technology that had a magnetic code that was implantable under the skin of an animal.
      Initially, this was to be used for pets, to aid in recovery of lost animals.
      At the time, I remember thinking that the next step would be to use them on soldiers, to eliminate the need for dog tags.
      Eventually, it would be offered as a way of "Keeping Kids Safe" (tm) from abductors.
      Eventually, everyone would be required to have one.
      If I remember correctly, the implant was a series of magnetic wafers stacked with their polarity representing a binary code, all sealed in a glass or plastic capsule. Never wears out or needs a power source.
      Jim in Tokyo
    • I got a barcode of my SSN once. The tat artist would not do it because it would blead and be unreadable by a scanner in just a few years.
      What we need to do is embed a non degradable surfice into the flesh of every person so that we can get some reliable scans.
  • by os2fan ( 254461 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:22PM (#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.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:22PM (#2249450)
    This idea really sucks for phone numbers and email addresses, but what about your home address?

    I've long wished that the postal system would assign everyone a unique number, and if someone wanted to send you something, they'd address it to that number instead of some street address. The mail is already routed by computers, so it'd be easy for those computers to look up that number, correllate it to your current physical address, and send it there.

    This would really be helpful if you move a lot. Right now, you have to file a change of address form, which isn't completely reliable, and that only lasts a few months. After that, if someone hasn't been informed of your new address, it'll go to your old address. There's just no excuse for this any more.
    • I can see it now... when someone wants directions to my house, I just tell them that it's at 53279153631. Then hang up.

      All of the problems that programmers have with pointers would immediately jump into the real world.
      • You can already use a number as a mailing address.

        It is extremely unlikely that there will be a duplicate house number within a 9-digit zip code, which usually narrows the area down to a street or neighborhood. So you simply put the house number and the 9-digit zip, resulting in a complete address which looks like 4871 13068-4310. (I just made this up. I seriously doubt this is someone's real address.)

        However, postal addresses in the usual form have lots of redundancy built in (especially using the name). In the purely numeric form, if you get one digit wrong, the mail is definitely not going to get to its intended destination.
    • I have moved three times in five years, and coincidentally changed jobs just as often (different months,) and kept the same mailing address and phone number all this time by using a mail box service and a cell phone.

      I'm mobile and its my responsibility to pick up my mail and amswer my phone. Its not the phone company's, or the bank's, or my 401k's or the government's hassle where I am, just as long as they can get in touch with me.

      You want to move around, go ahead and move around but leave a stable point of reference and you'll have no problems with anybody.
      • You've moved three times in five years. You're mobile?

        I'm guessing you're still in the same city, since you've kept the same PO box and area code.

        In the past five years, I've moved 11 times (12 times if you count the move I made right about this time five years ago) between 8 different addresses. Plus there was the month I spent travelling a couple years back.

        Those 8 addresses include cities on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

        I know exactly what Canada Post's change of address forms look like. Up here, we get six months of mail forwarding to the new address. It's usually been good enough.

        I have kept the same email addresses (well most of them). I have of course added a few.

        I don't have a cellphone. My last three moves have all been within Ontario so the fact that I've changed area codes each time hasn't mattered: Bell happily forwards my phone calls. I used mass emails and icqs for most of my other phone number changes.

        As for jobs, I've held a total of three during this time as well. wow, I'm getting old. the year before, I was knocking back four at once at one point. must be slowing down. :)

        You're not mobile, buddy. You're just a guy who moves every so often.

    • It's annoying that the US Postal Service hasn't even been able to come up with a unique numbering scheme for physical addresses. Several European countries have that, and you just write the destination mail number in the OCR boxes on the envelope.
  • And remembering these 11 digit numbers could be fun ...

    I've memorized my social security number, and I don't even use it on a regular (everyday/week) basis. The numbers are not the problem.

    The real problem is the fact that every right to privacy group would scream bloody murder. Have you seen people's reactions to what they did at the Super Bowl last year? The cameras that find felons in the crowd? I didn't care about that, I mean, finding felons isn't a bad thing.

    However, this makes me a little apprehensive. Ever read 1984 by Orwell? This calls that to mind. With everything being wireless now it would be easy for the government (the NSA already monitors practically every electronic signal in the world) to know that:

    Number 12345678901: Cellular phone call from 8th and Maple. Withdrew $50 from ATM on corner of 9th and Maple.

    I'm sure extremist are already envisioning numbers tatooed on people's foreheads. I don't think that would happen, but if this number became the only means of ID I would move to Ireland. (Dual citizenships are cool).
  • Weren't phone numbers created as 7 digit numbers because that's the average segment a person can remember? I remember in psychology talking about the way the memory centers work, and I was thinking it was 7 that was the typical chunk size of a person's memory? For the most part, we don't have to remember area codes, and for those of us who have to use 10 digit dialing, the first 3 digits are nearly uniform for our day to day calling (and thus memorization). How will an 11 character reference work out?
  • Who are you?

    I am Number Two.

    Who is Number One?

    You are Number Six.

    I am not a number! I'm a free man!

    derisive laughter

    I can't imagine an easier way to welcome in a brave new world of tyranny and oppression than this.

    Here at the First Federated National Bank, you're not just a number. You're four numbers, a dash, three letters, four more numbers...

  • by Squeeze Truck ( 2971 ) <xmsho@yahoo.com> on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:25PM (#2249461) Homepage
    16: And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

    17: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

    18: Here is wisdom, Let him that have understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (666)

    Someone was going to post this eventually.

    There goes all my karma :)
    • 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

    • Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six.

      Ok. Just for fun. There are two individuals mentioned in that passage:

      Individual #1. He that has understanding and is to count the number of the beast.

      Individual #2. The beast.

      Now which one of those two individuals is the last sentence refering to? Note that the reader is apparently warned from the beginning that it takes wisdom to understand the sentence. Maybe everybody is wrong about the number of the beast. Which would make sense considering that the book of revelation claims that almost everybody is deceived by the beast.

      If you believe in this stuff about 666 being the number of the beast, why do you think that you are not one of the deceived ones? And if the number is given to you, why would the author of the passage ask you to calculate it? Just a thought. Move along now.
      • Now which one of those two individuals is the last sentence refering to?

        Just for *more* fun, here is the same passage from the Vulgate Bible. (I know it's not the original, but I understand the King James is mainly translated from the Vulgate.) Maybe this will help clarify whom is being referred to:

        16. et faciet omnes pusillos et magnos et divites et pauperes et liberos et servos habere caracter in dextera manu aut in frontibus suis

        17. et ne quis possit emere aut vendere nisi qui habet caracter nomen bestiae aut numerum nominis eius

        18. hic sapientia est qui habet intellectum conputet numerum bestiae numerus enim hominis est et numerus eius est sescenti sexaginta sex

        It seems to me that "sescenti sexaginta sex" refers to the beast here.
        • 18. hic sapientia est qui habet intellectum conputet numerum bestiae numerus enim hominis est et numerus eius est sescenti sexaginta sex

          It seems to me that "sescenti sexaginta sex" refers to the beast here.

          The question is, who does "et numerus eius" refer to? And what happened to the original punctuation marks? I am pretty sure there were punctuation marks in the original Greek.
      • Yea, Everyone knows its 23!

        Every Thing Is Fire!
      • "Now which one of those two individuals is the last sentence refering to?"

        The original (or, as close to the original as i have available, if you're of that line of htinking) Greek is clear that the number being calculated is associated with the calculatee, not the calculator. you're just used to english, which is a shitty language for this sort of thing, if i may say so. =)

        Warning: bad romanization below, missing accents, with breathings:

        `Wde `n sophia estiv. `o exwv vouv psnphisatw tov 'apithmov tou phnpiou, 'arithmos yar 'avthrwpou 'estiv, kai `o 'arithmos 'autou "`exakosioi `exnkovta `ex".

        "Here is wisdom. The one having understanding, let him calculate the number(-ou) of the beast, for it(-ou) is the number of a man, and the it(-ou) is six hundred sixty six."

        and you calculate someone's number by doing magic number games with the letters of their name (i think it's a holdover from the whole letters-as-numbers thing in hebrew, but i really don't know. it's been a long time since we covered revelation in sunday school... keep in mind i haven't been to church in 3 or 4 years now)

        things i thought i would never post to /.: translations from the Greek NT...
        • The original (or, as close to the original as i have available, if you're of that line of htinking) Greek is clear that the number being calculated is associated with the calculatee, not the calculator.

          Thanks for that informative post. If I understand what you wrote correctly, the part translated "and his number is..." in English should have been "and it is..."
    • This is an example of a number game called geometria. The Hebrews (and here the early Christians) would take a word and play with its numerical value to show hidden meanings in the word. For example, you might have something like love + prosperity = peace (not a real geometria) where the numerical values of the first two can be added to get the second.

      John the revelator is showing how the word beast is equivalent to the number 666. If 7 is the perfect number, then 6 falls short of perfection, and repeating something three times obviously would be a way to add emphasis.

    • for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (666)

      The name of the contributor of the original article?

      Damian Whitworth

      That's right. DAMIAN

      *Now* I've got the heebie-jeebies...

      Jim in Tokyo
    • by abischof ( 255 ) <alex@@@spamcop...net> on Monday September 03, 2001 @11:37PM (#2249922) Homepage
      Approximate number of the Beast

      Roman numeral of the Beast

      Number of the High Precision Beast

      Number of the Millibeast

      / 666
      Beast Common Denominator

      (-666) ^ (1/2)
      Imaginary number of the Beast

      6.66 e3
      Floating point Beast

      Binary of the Beast

      6, uh... what was that number again?
      Number of the Blonde Beast

      Area code of the Beast

      Zip code of the Beast

      The speed limit of the Beast

      Retail price of the Beast

      Price of the Beast plus 5% state sales tax

      Price of the Beast with all accessories and replacement soul

      Walmart price of the Beast

      Next week's Walmart price of the Beast

      Phillips 666
      Gasoline of the Beast

      Route 666
      Way of the Beast

      666 F
      Oven temperature for roast Beast

      Retirement plan of the Beast

      666 mg
      Recommended Minimum Daily Requirement of Beast

      6.66 %
      5 year CD interest rate at First Beast of Hell National Bank, $666 minimum deposit.

      Beast's lawyer's billing rate

      Lotus 6-6-6
      Spreadsheet of the Beast

      Word 6.66
      Word Processor of the Beast

      CPU of the Beast

      BMW of the Beast

      DSM-666 (revised)
      Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Beast

      1232 Octal, Apt. 29A
      Beast's hexed address

      Next-door neighbor of the Beast

      The semi-Christ

      The Number of the Beast on a Pentium

      Due credit [geocities.com].
  • I'd be more interested in number portability between companies, especially cell phone vendors?

    For example, I've had a cell phone with SprintPCS for several years. Most everybody I know or do business with calls me on my Sprint number.

    So if I want to switch to Verizon or Nextel or Cingular or Voicestream I lose my number. Plus, the cell phone is not listed in the phone book so people I don't talk to often will have trouble getting a hold of me.

    Being able to xfer your number across company boundaries, even if it cost more money would be a worthwhile thing.

  • Someone commented in the earlier story about Passport security that "they'll probably tie it up with ENUM, which links DNS info to phone numbers." I subscribe to the cock-up theory of history - which is not to say that governments don't engage in conspiracies, but rather that they tend to cock it up when they do. The possibilities for cockups with this seem rather immense, though... and what on earth will the "UN Black Helicopters / CIA / They're Tryin' to Take Our God-given right to carry guns away / It's the End Times" brigade make of it? Not that they need an excuse, but it seems silly to give them free *cough* ammunition...
  • In Ira Levin's sci-fi novel, This Perfect Day, everyone was genetically homogenized, and was known by a nameber . They hailed a government run by Uni, a massive computer.

    • "Listen, Li RM35M26J449988WXYZ," Papa Jan said. "Listen. I'm going to tell you something fantastic, incredible. In my day--are you listening?--in my day there were
    • over twenty different names for boys alone! Would you believe it? Love of Family, it's the truth. There was 'Jan,' and 'John,' and 'Amu,' and 'Lev.' 'Higa,' and 'Mike'! 'Tonio'! And in my father's time there were even more, maybe forty or fifty! Isn't that ridiculous? All those different names when members themselves are exactly the same and interchangeable? Isn't that the silliest thing you ever heard of?"

      And Chip nodded, confused, feeling that Papa Jan meant the opposite, that somehow it wasn't silly and ridiculous to have forty or fifty different names for boys alone.

      "Look at them!" Papa Jan said, taking Chip's hand and walking on with him--through Unity Park to the Wei's Birthday parade. "Exactly the same! Isn't it marvelous? Hair the same; boys, girls, all the same. Like peas in a pod. Isn't it fine? Isn't it top speed?"

    Thank you. No, Thank Uni. A pretty decent "hero rebels against the system" kind of story, worth the read. Written in 1969.
  • My Mother... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by philovivero ( 321158 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:31PM (#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.

  • by ArticulateArne ( 139558 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:36PM (#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

    • It may have changed some time in the last decade, but the rule regarding use of the SSN used to go something like this:

      1. You must present it when required by approved government organizations.
      2. You may refuse to reveal your SSN to any business or institution which is not an approved government organization (w/ a few exceptions for those that will do direct transactions with approved gov. organization on your behalf; e.g. tax reporting, Medicare).
      3. Any business may, without penalty, decline to provide service to individuals who do not reveal their SSN.
      As you might imagine this leads to some fantastic catch-22's where one gets to decide between secrecy or getting served. For instance to the best of my knowledge all credit card companies require SSNs in order to recieve a card.

      The basic issue is that SSNs make a fantastic unique identifier in databases and thus everyone wants to use them that way, since they won't be duplicated by any other US citizen. I can only guess that this time around they figure unique identifiers are so useful that they aren't even making the pretense of limiting their use.
  • http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2916.txt [ietf.org]

    For people who like facts with their uninformed speculation.

  • Now when I come at you with a cattle prod later and threaten your testicles with its repeated and forceful application, I'm sure you'll remember my site's IP address.

    Then again, it could just be a made up number. But you won't care either way. You'll be too busy "moo"ing for me.

    How about just using my fuckin' finger-prints? (And the differences in skin temperature between the different parts of the print?)

    Security based on what can be counterfeited is no security at all. Base it on something existential and you might have a chance.

    Who's the fuckin' imbecile of a post-pubescent, pre-menopausal, unpreoccupied, '4F', tea-totaling bitch who came up with that shit.

    I know people who can't remember if its their third or fourth martini. A four didit PIN number at the ATM dictates whether they buy or bum another round.

    11 digits... Yeah right.
  • by Gerv ( 15179 ) <gerv&gerv,net> on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:51PM (#2249535) Homepage
    As soon as countries standardise on 00 as the international access code (and that's happening) then we will have a global unique numbering system administered by countries. It's called the phone system.

    In the UK, we can already get "personal numbers" which you can have redirected to wherever you are. There's no reason why companies in other countries can't do the same thing.

    That gives you all the benefits of unique personal numbering without many of the SSN/Big Brother/Brave New World/buzzword-X privacy concerns.

  • Think of this like ICQ numbers. If you want to spam people, you can just send to consecutive numbers- you're guaranteed a hit.

    IPs get this treatment regularly (think portscans) but an IP is just a gateway to services, not actual communication.

    This sort of numbering is a Bad Thing, even beyond the obvious Mark of the Beast problems.
    • While I'm not big on encouraging universal identifiers, there is an obvious way to limit the impact of this kind of attack.

      Pick a really large domain of potential numbers and then assign them randomly. There are ~6 billion people, so use 16 or 20 digit numbers so only one number in a million or 10 billion is actually active. Alternatively 8 random english characters is enough for 6 billion people, so use 12 character sequences and you are pretty safe from someone randomly hitting one.

      Of course this is security be obsurcity which has only limited value when it's your only line of defense, and you pay for it with increasingly more complicated things to remember.
    • If you want to spam people, you can just send to consecutive numbers- you're guaranteed a hit.

      This is worth it to me for the convenience of being able to set up allow lists for my friends without worrying about my friends switching from AOL to erols. Right now that's the biggest thing stopping me from putting unsolicited email into the big "probably spam" folder.

  • "And he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name." (Rev. 13:17)

    Anyone else suspect maybe this is just a big scheme to use the .us TLD for something besides low-rent local government Web sites? I bet the Postal Service is connected to this idea somehow, if it's for real.

  • From the article...

    There are 100 thousand million potential individual combinations available if all digits between 0 and 9 are employed. It is likely, however, that each country would administer its own numbers and use its own area and country codes, which could further increase the possible combinations.

    Just say, 100 Billion combinations...

    And in the second part of the paragraph... if each country uses it's own area codes, it would decrease, not increase the combinations...

  • Prisoner: "Where am I?"

    Number Two: "In the Village."

    Prisoner: "Who are you?"

    Number Two: "The new Number Two."

    Prisoner: "Who is Number One?"

    Number Two: "You are."

    Prisoner: "What do you want?"

    Number Two: "Information."

    Prisoner: "Well, you won't get it!"

    Number Two: "By hook or by crook, we will."

    Prisoner: "I am not a number, I am a free man."

    Number Two: (laughs)

    Someone had to post it. I figure since I used to actually watch "The Prisoner" it's not entirely out of line. First it starts with the "Dr. Who". Next think you know you're watching "The Prisoner" and "The Avengers". That damn anglophilic PBS.

  • for (long long n=0; n99999999999; n++)
    { send_spam(n,text); }
  • I have always preferred ICQ's "numbered users" scheme over AIM and e-mail having names. With ICQ you can always change your handle without getting and telling everyone a new number/name to reach you at. I've had so many e-mail address in the past 6 years--probably 3 or 4 per year, because I'm always changing ISPs. What I wouldn't give to have had a universal number this whole time, which I could forward to my mailbox at my current ISP.

    The one thing, and people have mentioned this higher up, is preventing spam. My suggestion would be to require you to "authorize" other users to contact you. Once we all have PDAs this might be practical. You could also have a "request" sort of thing, like ICQ has...but then you would likely get inundated with "Request for authorization from: teensex00124134 free teen sex at www.teensex.com" sort of authorization messages. maybe if the requests would only show the number&name of the person/organization, rather than a spammable text message...
  • I remember reading an old Peanuts comic strip (bless Charles Schulz's memory), where Charlie Brown and Lucy meet a kid whose name is '5'. He explains that his parents gave him and his sisters ('3' and '4') names as numbers as a protest of sorts. Then Charlie Brown muses that what if everyone had numbers for names, and thinks that he'd have 3.1416 as his name...

    Just a silly thought...looks like your government is insisting that everyone have numbers for names. :)

  • The LA Times has a much more detailed article [latimes.com]. Can other people read this, or do I have a cookie that lets me read it because I'm a subscriber?

    There's a lot of detailed technical info here [cconvergence.com].

  • One woman who was pissed off at her ex-husband filed a tax return in his name, saying that he had a few million in gambling winnings.

    The man spent YEARS trying to get the IRS liens off his credit record, not to mention the trouble of trying to convince the IRS JBT's not to steal his house, car, bank accounts, etc.

    I don't want the Federal government to have *any* records on individuals, unless they're government employees or convicts.

  • 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,

  • I forget what it was called, but it was around about 3 or 4 years ago. Had to do with something called a "Q" number. It was almost exactly the same concept as this. Really kind of stupid, it never caught on (obviously).

    Univerisal access to me is not a right for anyone. I prefer to have different channels of access through different means and paths as a method for me to filter out the folks I probably don't want to talk to versus the people that I'm more likely going to want to talk to.

    The only thing this would do is make it easier to marketers to peddle crap to us. *grin*
  • If all my contacts are going to be tied to one number, I'd much rather it work like this: I get assigned a unique id. I can use that unique ID and a system (government, public institution, whatever) that could use that key to generate any number of unique 20 digit numbers (okay, one billion 20 digit numbers) that I could use as one-time or at least one-user contacts.

    For example, if my # was 1111-111-1111 I could take the unique ID 000000002-1111-111-1111, run it through this institutions encryption to create a scrambled, but unique, id (this has problems. There would only be one key in this system, and if it was comprimised, though it's only ever used by the intitution, then that would be a problem. It wouldn't even have to be a key, it could just be a relational table, but data compromising issues would still exist). I could give this ID out (at a bar, to an employer, whatever) and when the person used it, by phone, email, fax, whatever, it would get processed by the institution, decrypted, and would reveal the ID and the 'serial number'.

    the benefit of this system is the person you give the card to has no way of knowing what your ID is, as it never appears in plaintext, and if you're tired of hearing from that person (or that # ends up on a spam list) you can simply refuse the serial number 000000002. They don't know what 20-digit number would decrypt to 000000003-1111-111-1111, so you're safe.

    I could see business cards (and personal cards) with two parts, you detach it when you give it to someone and write the name of who you gave it to on the part you keep. that part has the serial number (000000002) on it so you can trace how someone 'got your number'.
  • As usual, those on slashdot have begun to open their privacy tantrum-mouths again before researching.

    ENUMs will be aliases for other services (like e-mail, telephone services, etc.). Each service will require a type of authentication before it can get into the wrong hands. It's just basically a convience measure. Instead of giving all your info to the phone company to get service, you just give them your ENUM, they get your info with a public key issued for phone company service providers. So they have access only to that info which is required under those specific aliases.

    If you think of an ENUM as a kind of relational ID in a database for all services, accounts, etc. you have, and only specific people having keys to access that information referenced to by your ENUM, you'll get the idea. So when you give an average citizen your ENUM, you can choose to enable them to have your phone number, etc. if you want. Or you can give them a NULL ENUM, which basically would serve as a number to track you in case you, say, pass a bad check (and would offer no information initially).
  • I want a unique number for everything. Dogs, streets, cities, countries, schools, houses, cars, computers, words, phrases, commercials, tv stations, URLs... Everything, all with a GUID. Then when I do a search on Google for '"Nicole Kidman" naked' I can do a search for "293180921832 528347338338". Don't have to worry about different Nicole Kidmans, and don't have to worry about different meanings of the word naked.
  • You won't have to memorize your number since it will be conveniently tattooed to the inside of your forearm.

    (blah blah Goodwin's Rule blah blah)
  • I'm a programmer; I love numbers and the ease they lend to certain tasks. However, I find the thought of everything I am being represented by a number as dehumanizing as the switch from being called a "customer" to being called a "consumer."

    We're not nameless and faceless; we're not a piece of data, even if we're represented by one in a database. But I think this will tip us just that much further to thinking of each other as somehow less than we are.

Due to lack of disk space, this fortune database has been discontinued.