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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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  • Re:Universal SPAM!? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:15PM (#2249418)
    Yes we got lots of spam because of it in Australia because they gave us all TFN's (I think this means Tax File Number - but not sure).

    Anyway ever since I am bombarded with expesive glossy brochues and MUST READ THIS and VERY IMPORTANT. Apparently someone is "claiming" to be a Minister and he wants my HECS number, TFN, Life Time Health Cover Number, all my Bank Numbers, Car Rego, etc.....

    Now the spam is coming thick and fast. Luckily I can recycle most of it.

  • Re:SS number (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:20PM (#2249439)

    Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan uses your social security number as a username to log in to their systems.

  • ENUM FAQ (Score:1, Informative)

    by N3P1u5U17r4 ( 457760 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:22PM (#2249448) Homepage

  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:36PM (#2249491) Homepage []

    For people who like facts with their uninformed speculation.

  • 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 []
  • by s390 ( 33540 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @11:16PM (#2249843) Homepage
    and it is called your Social Security Number. Needed for school registration, credit card accounts, drivers license, all kinds of various identifications.

    Any US Citizens here _not_ have their SSNs memorized? Raise your hands. I didn't really think so. Guess what, to Government, you are a number!
    (There was some lip-service given to "restricting use" and "preventing abuse" decades ago, but it's been forgotten for the utility of SSN identifiers.)

    Too late!

    AFAIK, it's not illegal in the US not to have a SSN: it's just illegal to attend most schools, serve in the military, or work for taxable wages without one.

    Of course it's also possible to acquire _more_ numbers - if you're ever arrested, you'll get a case number (if convicted and sentenced to jail or prison, you'll get an inmate number too); if sued in civil court, you'll get a docket number, etc., etc. But those happen if you break the law or piss someone off...
    But you have more numbers, even if you're an upstanding gentle citizen: drivers license, credit cards, bank accounts, phone number, cellphone, et al.

    Bottom line, I think a case can be made for a UIN (Universal Identification Number), for two reasons: (1) it will simplify so many mundane things, from communications (live and electronic) through public records and commercial transactions, and (2) it will require revising almost all the record keeping systems extant, boosting the economy as a great successor to the Y2K convulsion, a good way to get 250,000+ programmers re-employed!
  • by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @12:40AM (#2250130) Journal

    It's mostly possible: []

  • by patrixx ( 30389 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @04:55AM (#2250599)
    It's called person-number. It's easy to remember since it's your birth date plus four digits YYMMDD-NNNN like 700516-4953. The first three last digits is a birth number between 001 - 999 that is odd for boys and even for girls. The last digit is a modulo 10 checksum - add the first nine digits and subtract the last digit of the result from 10 to get it. Like 7+0+0+5+1+6+4+9+5 = 37. And 10 -7 = 3.

    We've had this system since 1947. The checksum digit was added 1967. When you are born or immigrate to Sweden you receive a person-number and it never canges (except if you get 100+)

    This is of course convinient to use in databases, and every public record uses them, it is also very, very easy to combine different databases since this number is a uniqe primary key. This of course is a privacy issue. For eg the police can take their database and combine it with the immigrant office records, and the hospitals records and get it.

    You might think there would be problems with the ammount of numbers. There have been cases when people have received an existing person-number, but it's because of human error, since the numbers are plenty. At least for this country (8 million). All that is required is that babies born on the same day get different birth numbers. When you, or if rather, you pass one hundered years the minus sign is changed to a plus sign like 700516+4953 to avoid that new born babies are confused with you.
    But yes, old and dead people have received samples of babie dipers etc in the mail. Not all systems are perfect ;-) It's the same as the millennium bug problem.

    /Patrik, Sweden
  • by Kaiwen ( 123401 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @11:14AM (#2251365) Journal
    try to enroll in college, open a bank account, get a drivers license.

    Enrolling in school and getting a DL, no problem. I simply told my school that I would not give them my SSN and they assigned me a different number.

    The DL Bureau I just made up a number. The SS Administration cannot verify SSNs, so they have no way to confirm whether the number I supplied is correct. Ditto health insurers, credit card companies, etc. Per federal law no private organization can require you to provide your SSN, so the most they can do if you're caught is cancel your service.

    Banks are a different issue, since they report earnings to the SSA.

  • by Frosty26 ( 461453 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:21PM (#2251925)

    You do realize that not all modern democratic nations require that all of its citizens be identified by a unique number? In fact there are many that would argue that a free and democratic society must not force such a system on its citizens.

    Americans seem to have grown so used to having "unique" number stamped onto your arm at birth that you assume that it is necessary. Then you wonder why all of you can have your indentities stolen by anyone with $5 and an internet account.

    In Canada for instance everyone over 12 has a SIN or social insurance number issued to them. However the use of the SIN as part of an identification system is severely restricted. Further the number itself is not considered unique. In fact it is possible, even in a relatively small group(say 10,000 people) for this number to collide.

    No company can require you to provide your SIN for any purpose, including credit card companies or apartment rental companies etc. Nor can they use it to uniquely identify you.

    There are a few specific exceptions.

    Basically the only purposes for which you must provide your SIN is where the recipient has responsibilities to Canada Customs and Revenue Agency(CCRA), Canada's IRS. For example your employer or other agent for which you will have income. For example an investment bank where interest income will be returned will require a SIN to report income to the CCRA. In this case the number must be only used for this purpose, not for indentification (ie not as a unique key) and must be destroyed upon termination of your relationship (ie you move to a new job).

    See the Privacy Comission of Canada's [] web site for more information.

    Even the CCRA does not use your SIN as an standalone identifier. You see the CCRA has learned that in a database you can use multiple DB columns to create a unique id. So in fact your identity is determined by multiple values.

    So in Canada you get the benefits of being able to identify someone for tax purposes without all of the danger and flaws in a single "unique" number. A number which even in the US is aparently not all that unique if you read some of the posts.

    Now the US government wants to issue a unique number for phone, e-mail and fax?

    You americans are crazy.

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