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Governmental ID System in Japan 590

Kaan writes: "Japan just launched a mandatory, nationwide ID system whereby every citizen is assigned an 11-digit identification number. The database stores personal data (name, address, date of birth, gender, possibly more data) for each person. At least five municipalities are refusing to join the system, which accounts for ~4 million of the 127 million total. While some Japanese folks are refusing to cooperate, most are going along with it. Is this the beginning of the end of privacy in Japan? How much longer until we see something like that in the U.S.?"
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Governmental ID System in Japan

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  • SS# (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrStrange ( 72008 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:29AM (#4011139)
    Ahhh, don't we have something like that already known as a social security number?
    • Re:SS# (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bzcpcfj ( 308756 )
      "Ahhh, don't we have something like that already known as a social security number?"

      Technically, no, because you don't have to have a social security number. However, since you need one to work, to get a driver's license, even to be claimed as a dependent on your parent's tax return, for all practical purposes, we certainly do.

      But, it's better to have one ID than have to keep track of several. The issue is one of whether the system becomes abused.

      And, any system can be abused, whether it's one ID number or twenty.
      • You don't need a SSN to work in the US. It is a lot of paperwork to wade through, you usually have to educate your employer that one is not necessary, and fill out a million forms to get a job, but you don't actually have to have one to work.
      • Re:SS# (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kefaa ( 76147 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:47AM (#4011241)
        "Technically, no, because you don't have to have a social security number"

        No longer true. When my children were born, a SSN form was required for them prior to leaving the hospital. The days of an "optional" SSN are gone.
        • No longer true. When my children were born, a SSN form was required for them prior to leaving the hospital. The days of an "optional" SSN are gone.
          An SSN is absolutely not required for a child at birth. If you were fanatical about it, and willing to fight your local school board on the issue, you could probably get away without having one up to 16.

          However, the IRS, state governments, and medical insurance companies have put tremendous pressure on maternity hospitals to pre-enter the information on the forms and hand it to the parents with a bunch of other paperwork, implying that they must sign and submit it. No, you don't, but it will be a long battle if you choose to fight.


        • Re:SS# (Score:4, Informative)

          by shani ( 1674 ) <shane@time-travellers.org> on Monday August 05, 2002 @09:18AM (#4011378) Homepage
          There's no law requiring children be born in a hospital. It just seems that way, in America at least. (In Holland being pregnant isn't a disease, so most women give birth at home.)

          You do need to have a SSN for your children in order to claim them as dependents on your taxes. When this change was introduced, there ended up being a lot less children, meaning a lot of people where cheating on their taxes.
          • Re:SS# (Score:2, Interesting)

            by tomstdenis ( 446163 )
            "not a disease" but can be a huge risk. The reason its done in hospitals in North America is to reduce the risk of complications. Personally [I'm male] if a 7 pound creature was falling out of me I'd want some doctors around... I dunno, just my pref's :-)

            • Re:SS# (Score:2, Interesting)

              by cduffy ( 652 )
              I've known more than a few mothers who, having given birth to their first child in a hospital, chose to do the subsequent ones at home, with a (trained, licensed) midwife present. By both accounts, the American hospitals tended towards reccomending unnecessary surgery, unnecessary drugs, and provided an atmosphere which was other than entirely supportive.

              Given the prudence of the ppl in question (both of whom I know quite well), I'm inclined to trust their judgement.
        • To have the government say they will not respect my name and have to give one to me is insulting and dehumanizing. I consider that by which I should be known and called to be my name and then perhaps where I live. Let the government have their numbers to help them keep track of tax records and such and I will have my name.

          Or perhaps we could just have the government start naming kids for us. I'm sure the guys over at AOL could just give us all great unique usernames with their wonderful naming algorithms. Business could start sponsoring names to help defray the great costs that they impose. You next child could be little Billy Johnson2352 for $89.95 or little Delly Dimension43895 for $9.95. you decide.
      • And, any system can be abused, whether it's one ID number or twenty.

        Ah, but some systems are more abusable than others...

      • Re:SS# (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @09:30AM (#4011437) Homepage
        Technically, no, because you don't have to have a social security number.

        If you're a US Citizen you do, ever since 1987 I believe.

        The SSN is a national ID system. Period. Anyone believing differently is fooling themselves. You have to present it to work (because of that 15% that goes *poof* out of your paycheck), you file it with your taxes, you have to give it for most bank accounts, for mortgage loans, heck, for most financial data (auto loans, credit cards, etc). Most medical plans use your SSN as your ID (or the SSN of the primary cardholder, followed by -# for others).

        Don't think living in an apartment means your SSN isn't on file. Most likely the apartment complex wanted to run a credit check on you to lower their risk of a bad rentor. That involved getting your SSN because your SSN is the most reliable way of uniquely identifying you in the credit bureau systems -- I know, I wrote algorithms to try and do matches without the SSN. They weren't nearly as accurate (I think the best we got to was 3 false positives out of 11 million).

        Anyone who's had their SSN stolen and used for identity theft can tell you just how much of a nightmare that creates. And this is largely because the SSN has evolved into a national ID without it ever having been designed as one. You can't just reel off a 9 digit number and use it as a SSN (there are check digits), but if I know your SSN then I can pass it off as my own without any additional checks.
        • Re:SS# (Score:5, Funny)

          by ThereIsNoSporkNeo ( 587688 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @09:42AM (#4011504)
          "If you're a US Citizen you do, ever since 1987 I believe."

          You sure of that date? I could've sworn it was closer to 1984...
        • Re:SS# (Score:3, Insightful)

          by King_TJ ( 85913 )
          Yes, you're quite right - although the system the Japanese are implementing is a little more invasive than the SS# in the U.S.

          If you think about it, the SS# is really just a numerical equivalent to your full name. The reason it became ubiquitous is because too many people have the same exact first, middle and last name. Banks had issues with directing deposits to the wrong person's account, because they shared the same name (and still do sometimes, when they only do look-ups based on name and get careless).

          If people were willing to refer to themselves by unique strings of numbers - there would never have been a need for the SS# in the first place.

          The whole "national ID" controversy comes into play because they want everyone to carry around a form of ID that contains some of your personal information, tied to your unique identifier.

          Even if you have to give out your SS# to pay with a personal check at the gas station, the attendant doesn't automatically get to know much else about you (other than your address and phone number printed on the check). If they start making you swipe a national ID card through a reader, however, they just added lots of your personal information to their computer database.
    • Re:SS# (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes, but as these databases become more pervasive and its focus increases, you start paving the road to abuse (intentional or not)
    • Re:SS# (Score:5, Funny)

      by bellings ( 137948 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:37AM (#4011187)
      Well, it's totally different than a social security number! For example, my social security number is only 9 digits long, not 11.

      And, in the United States, the social security number is never used for identification. You're only legally required to use one if you want a job, use a bank, get a loan, use a credit card, own any shares in a company (including common stock), get an identification card, go to a public school, or pay taxes.

      And, many private services, including insurance, video rental cards, university identification cards, and health services usually demand a SS number, although those can not legally demand one, except in a bunch of special cases which no human on earth can enumerate.

      So, see? They're not at all the same.
      • Re:SS# (Score:4, Informative)

        by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @09:32AM (#4011448) Homepage
        IANAL (but I slept at a holiday inn last night)...
        If I'm not mistaken, you don't even have to give it out in those sitations, do you? I thought that the only reason you had to give it out was for gov't and social security related items. I did a quick google search and turned up this [faqs.org] little gem.
        • Re:SS# (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ioldanach ( 88584 )
          If I'm not mistaken, you don't even have to give it out in those sitations, do you?

          No, you don't have to give it to a business if you don't want to. Of course, they can refuse to do business with you if you don't, and you have the right to take your business elsewhere.

          So yes, they have the right to only do business with you if you give them that number.

  • by truesaer ( 135079 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:32AM (#4011148) Homepage
    Except ours is only nine digits, and is called a social security number. My number is recorded on everything from housing to loans to taxes to investments to my educational records. And although there isn't a central database, we all know how much you can find on the internet for a small fee.
  • by Self Bias Resistor ( 136938 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:33AM (#4011156)

    This sort of thing has been in place in many countries for quite some time. In Sweden, for example, every resident has a "personnummer" (personal number) that you use for identification purposes. It consists of your birthdate followed by another four-digit number. And the US has their Social Security number.

    So what I'm interested in is, what's the problem?

    • by SeeFood ( 2713 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:47AM (#4011237) Homepage
      exactly. Israel Has it, I'm sure most of Europe has that. it's been that way for well over half a century, get REAL. how else are you counted as a citizen? given a voting right? accepted to schools, and government benefits? accepted to work and fill out the tax forms?

      The idea that frightens Americans is not being tagged - come on, the idea of a society with no tagging of who's a member is as rediculous as saying you don't need to release memory when you program. Memory leaks anyone? when we are talking about a country, you are facing problems of population density calculations, which effect infrastructure development, housing, roads, schools, fire stations, everything. you have to keep track, otherwise you break into chaos and people are born and die without anyone taking care of it.

      What I think Americans are afraid is the fact that the big brother(s) -NSA, CIA, FBI, whoever, are crossing the information. well ofcourse they are, and have been for years, and they will continue to do it efficiently with or without national ID. it's their JOB. it MAY make their job a little easier, but not by much really.

      I appreciate the anarchistic spirit, but it's kinda impossible to maintain a nation and an economy without numbers and tags, or you end up back in the good old wild west. the fact it's not happening is because the system already exists. the fact you are not carrying an ID card in your pocket does not mean you were not assigned one and cross-linked in all the government databases.
      • The idea that frightens Americans is not being tagged - come on, the idea of a society with no tagging of who's a member is as rediculous as saying you don't need to release memory when you program.

        Nonsense. The United States (and the rest of the world) lived a long time without mandatory ID technology, and could live indefinetely in such a state.

        Taking population density calculations is straightforward -- remember, it can be determined roughly how many people live in an area without knowing who each of them is; modern statistics makes this even easier. People can "take care of" their own births and deaths -- what kind of governmental action do you really think is necessary in such cases, and why?

        The "chaos" you speak of has been the natural state of things for most of human history; I suggest you show some genuine advantages if you wish to suggest changing it.
      • "how else are you counted as a citizen?"

        The census, every four years

        "given a voting right?"

        Voter registration, facilitated by a piece of mail sent to me proving that I live in said voting district

        "accepted to schools,"

        Becoming a legal resident in state X, also facilitated by a piece of mail.

        "come on, the idea of a society with no tagging of who's a member is as rediculous as saying you don't need to release memory when you program. Memory leaks anyone?"

        The US is a heck of a lot more immigrant-friendly than European countries and we don't see as much need to prevent "memory leaks" as you seem to. Most Americans would rather have a few people sneak into the system than to have a national ID card.

        "when we are talking about a country, you are facing problems of population density calculations, which effect infrastructure development, housing, roads, schools, fire stations, everything. you have to keep track"

        Again, we have a census every four years.

        "otherwise you break into chaos and people are born and die without anyone taking care of it."

        That's why states give out birth and death certificates.

        "What I think Americans are afraid is the fact that the big brother(s) -NSA, CIA, FBI, whoever, are crossing the information. well ofcourse they are, and have been for years,"

        Apparently you don't understand the concept of interservice rivalry...

        "the fact it's not happening is because the system already exists."

        If it already existed there wouldn't be so many pushes in Congress to pass new legislation creating it.
    • So what I'm interested in is, what's the problem?

      I agree - it seems like the biggest privacy issues in this country are petty at best. Oh no, someone is sending me targeting advertising! Oh no, someone is searching my luggage for a bomb! As an honest citizen, my privacy/body/anything is *far* more likely to be violated by another citizen than the government - I think the Constitution and Supreme Court have done a fine job protecting privacy (perhaps even a little too fine).

    • First, the Social Security Account Number is not public info nor is it an identification number. Despite attempts by many companies and organizations to use it as such.

      Secondly, the public ID system in Sweden and Finland works very well because the cultural values are quite different than the U.S. The number itself is public and in general openness is much more valued and abuse of the number will be relatively quickly discovered and dealt with. A specific example would be tax info. For such a system to work in the U.S. tax info would have to enter the public domain like in Sweden. Too many have way too much to hide to allow that to happen.

      To go off on a tangent to illustrate the openness, a lot of EU material is ordered from Sweden from UK citizens because freedom of information is part of the culture, having been written as separate article, Offentlighetsprincipen, of the constitution back in 1766. It makes the U.S. freedom of information act look pretty small and pale and tax records are not included. The UK and France have everything default to being closed for 30 years. Given that the life of magnetic tape (not to address the data format) is generally less than 10 years even under optimal storage conditions, this has a lot of ramifications.

      Offentlighetsprincipen could have saved the EU quite a lot of embarassement and expenses.

    • It seems that US citizens think that their government actually would use this to somehow harm their citizens - in Europe, there is no such fear (apart from perhaps a few really paraniod guys I would presume, and they always find something to be afraid of).

      I guess that is a fair fear, given that from what you hear from US citizens, the US is, for all the talk about the land of the free, one of the most non-free, controlled countries apart from actual dictatorships. I don't know if that is so, but it sure sounds like it when they talk about it.

      Well, anyhow, if you live in fear of your own government, isn't it time to do something about it?

      I can assure you, that at least over here, citizens and business both almost only benefit from being registered, as many other have pointed out. The only thing that is bad for you that I can come up with, is that businesses and landlords etc. will know if you are a fuck-up with lots of debts, which if you think of it, also really is a good thing for the most part. Meaning that ppl that pay their way get to rent the apts and buy the stereos, and stores have less problem getting their cash for the things they sell. It is possible they are a bit too harsh though on that part (one strike and you are gone for a few years, economically - that sucks), and need to lighten up - but the thought is, I guess, good.

    • I think the abuse problem has been mention 100s of times already and your asking whats the problem?

      How many people in US each year have a stolen identity. Without the numbers its impossible unless you possess my body, to steal my identity.

      Credit reporting agencies that screw up ones credity ration have defacto power over you. They can hose your record if they want to mess with you. We dont elect the people who have control over these privately held records. My credit is my private business. But some for-profit agency controls it.

      Lots of problems with this. Not the least of which is the governments inability to secure the system. poor security is worse than no security at all.
  • Cool... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Spackler ( 223562 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:36AM (#4011178) Journal
    Cool, Ashcroft got Japan to run his Beta Testing for him.
    • Re:Cool... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JimBobJoe ( 2758 )
      ...in an odd way, you bring up a point that not a single person has mentioned.

      Japan is a highly bureaucratic country--has been for hundreds of years now, and certainly since the war.

      Japan is also a country which prides itself on organization, and strives to put in place hierarchies of bureaucracy.

      So why do they need the number now? Clearly they have survived perfectly well without it. That to me is the oddest part--I can't find a single article saying why they suddenly need a universal ID number. My personal stereotypes of the Japanese say that it certainly has nothing to do with fraud or identification theft.

      I don't think it's Ashcroft incidentally, but I believe that the companies who make ID card systems (Polaroid, Viisage, Unisys...et cetera) are really good at selling their systems to schmuck politicians who don't realize that they have no need for em.

      I heard that was the Bulgarian experience. Bulgarians had pre-berlin internal passports for identification with the government security forces...after communism collapsed, the need for an ID card took a big dive. However, a country on the verge of bankruptcy, required that everyone get new ID cards in the mid to late 90's. The general belief is
      a.) some ID card maker made a great pitch
      b.) part of that pitch was that new ID cards would represent a profit opportunity for the government.

  • by stud9920 ( 236753 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:37AM (#4011182)
    ...and see what a dictature they live in ! Now not only does the state know people's gender, they know people's AGE too ! This is ludacris ! Before you'll know, they will keep people's ADRESS too ! Ludacris !
  • "How much longer until we see something like that in the U.S.?"

    What do you mean, "when"? It's called the Social Security Number, or more accurately these days, "Taxpayer Identification Number". And besides just name, address, date of birth and gender, it's tied to your employment history (in governemnt databases), credit history, medical history, and tons more (in "private" databases).

  • by SuperCal ( 549671 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:40AM (#4011200) Homepage
    I know that it sounds like a troll, but seriously this is the kind of thing that made me a Libertarian. My towns congressmen , both Dem. and Rep, have all pledged to fight government invasion of privacy, but they keep voteing us closer to this kind of thing.
  • by Hektor_Troy ( 262592 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:41AM (#4011203)
    Our CPR (Central Person Registry) stores your CPR-number. Mine looks like this:

    130477-1235 (no, this is not my real CPR-number)

    This indicates that my birthdate is the 13th day of the 04th month of the 77th year.

    1235 is the "checksum" and gender-marker; even numbers for women, uneven for men. I think they use X for women and Y for men without a permanet citizen ship (refugees and the like).

    Also, the entire number has to pass some kind of test, but I can't remember how it's used.

    The CPR also has the current address of each person along with an opt out feature for commercial mail targeted at you, which is nice, because all companies in Denmark have to comply by that setting, but they only have access to the address through CPR.

    You can read a lot more about the system here [www.cpr.dk].

    I am a proponent of personal privacy, and I don't have a problem with this system - probably because I can't think of a single intrusion into my privacy caused by it.

    I think it comes down to "trust", and so far I haven't had a reason not to trust the CPR.
    • The CPR doesn't just contain your current address, it contains all your previous addresses, the CPR numbers of your parents, your place of birth and some other information.

      There's also a registry of organisations that have subscribed to your personal information. This is how Danish banks will always be notified when you change your address.

      Only the last digit is a checksum, using the modulo 11 rule; the weights are 4 3 2 7 6 5 4 3 2 1.
    • I am a proponent of personal privacy, and I don't have a problem with this system - probably because I can't think of a single intrusion into my privacy caused by it.

      And yet you won't give us your number. Why is that? Just curious what your thought process was.
    • Beware. (Score:2, Insightful)

      Everything starts out somewhat justifiably, but when the laws are passed to give those in government that power, you see the true color of those people in power. Yes, there are potential advantages to such a system - all activities will then be monitored. But this is also a *VERY* risky thing to just sign off on.

      The problem comes in when the government starts requiring that number for essential livelihood, and monitoring all activities pertaining to every person in every activity. That gives them too much power. Power corrupts. Trust me. Look at history. Someday, when they make laws that are unfair, or against the rights of the individual (and trust me again, there are many that ARE out to get you, and are lobbying the government heavily to do so), enforcing these laws will become trivial, and attempting to reject them will be life-threatening. It would be naive to think that there isn't a lot to protect or lose, a lot of liberty in jeopardy, when the most powerful forces are so desperate to push such legislation. And it would be naive to think that the government is always working in the interest of the common man, and always on your side. (This is probably the most important point - That government itself is frequently untrustworthy.)

      Take it or leave it. The future itself is in jeopardy. Beware what you are complacent about, who you vote for, and what you sign off on. A word is enough for the wise.
      • Well, the system was put in place in 1968, which is 34 years ago for the mathematically impaired of you.

        You also have to look at the Danish history and political system, before you can write off such a system in Denmark. In the US I would be very weary of it, because the political system basicaly forces you to be in the pockets of big business, but in Denmark, being wealthy and/or in the pockets of big business will usually get you about 10 votes.

        Right now, our current government is dependant upon a party run by a former social care worker. When was the last time you could say that about the US government?

        The danish political system is not any better or worse than the US system, it's just better suited for this kind of central registry, as it and the danish mentality will basicly lynch anyone who abuses it, and pat the lynch mob on the back afterwards.
    • by CoreyG ( 208821 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @12:14PM (#4012464)
      130477-1235 (no, this is not my real CPR-number)

      That's my number! Thanks a lot, jerk!
    • One out of 2000 people are born with ambiguious genitalia, either through misdevelopment or chromosome ambiguity. About one in 200 people psychologically dont agree with their physical gender.
      The growing consensus is to let the ambiguous child select their own gender as they grow older, rather than to assign one at birth. Assignment fails in half of the cases.
  • This is good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dybdahl ( 80720 ) <info@[ ]dahl.dk ['dyb' in gap]> on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:42AM (#4011210) Homepage Journal
    Denmark has had this since the 1970's, which is also the reason why the Danish population is very popular amongst researchers. All health care information is available through this central computer system, and this makes researchers able to find correlations quickly. All tax information is provided this way, too. You cannot open a bank account without telling your 10-digit identification number, which the bank will use to report to the state.

    It is extremely convenient - when moving, you only have to tell it once, and then all banks, insurance companies, the army (if you are reserve), your doctor etc. know your new address.

    There are some security concerns and there is a very strict legislation about how to handle this system, but the economical benefits are huge and it does benefit society a lot.

    Having lived in both in Denmark where everybody has an ID-number (but no ID-cards), and in Germany, where everybody has an ID-card (but no ID-number), I clearly prefer the Danish system.

    • The only problem is, that since the health insurance certificate doesn't have a picture ID, which is rather annoying for me, as I don't have nor do I want a credit card, nor do I have a drivers license yet or a passport.

      But what the hell ... I've survived since 130477 so far ...
    • so your health records are linked to it too?

      are there protections in place to stop companies obtaining this information? insurance companies, for instance. or how about, your prospective employer does a search on this information. sees, for instance, that you are HIV positive. and denies you the job on this ground.

      The problem is that any _new_ system of this type is exactly that, new, and it is better to be vigilant when this sort of thing comes along. Who makes the rules? What is their motive?

      If done well, it can be a good system. if done badly, it can be a huge threat to personal freedom, and perhaps unwilling and uncontrollable discolsure of sensitive information.

    • Re:This is good (Score:4, Informative)

      by Peter H.S. ( 38077 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:55AM (#4011935) Homepage
      [snip about the Danish CPR -ID system]

      There are some security concerns and there is a very strict legislation about how to handle this system, but the economical benefits are huge and it does benefit society a lot.

      The security around the CPR ID database system wasn't really that good some years ago; an internal audit made them tighten up the security a lot.
      And usually, the control around any public database system in Denmark is a joke; all most all cops use the KR (criminal register) to snoop on their neighbours. The register is never cleaned for old records, even though the law requires it. A combination of these two vices, were demonstrated, when nosey police officers, leaked the criminal record of a well known conservative politician; he had a "drinking & driving" offence when he was around 18, in the 1950'ies. This costed him his post as a leader of the conservative party.
      As usually, the police was unable to even discover which policy officer had leaked the information.
      For what I know, your conviction that your data is safe in the states database systems, is pretty much nothing more than a conviction.

      Besides, there are a major problem with centralized ID systems, besides the states tendency to abuse the system, namely, that such a system is a benefit for the Bad Guys too.

      Eg. In Denmark the CPR ID number is slabbed around the newborn babies wrist, even before it is handed over to its mother. Everybody has a CPR id number. A huge amount of data is tied around that number, since all transactions with the state /county are tied to the CPR. Fortunately, a lot of the information is compartmentalized, meaning that one cannot (easily) make a centralized query of all the information regarding a citizen.

      But since the CPR system is so convenient and omnipresent, even the lowliest, unmotivated, underpaid county clerk has access to it. (the open terminals that are so convenient when dealing with the state /county).
      So getting access to all that real time information on people, is staggering easy.
      One case to illustrate the point. During the 80'ies, the KGB just bribed such a county clerk, to tag all russian dissidents living here in Denmark.
      So the KGB had instant updates on them, even if they changed their name and address constantly.
      All those queries on russian dissidents (who weren't even living in this small county) were never discovered by an internal audit.

      Another case: "Blekingegade banden" was a violent extremist group, that supplied extremist palestinian terror groups with weapons and money, stemming from violent robberies.
      They were not stupid as many criminals actually are; they were intelligent and educated, and planted a man inside the institution that was running not only the CPR, but also the KR (criminal register), and countless other databases.
      So this small "terrorist" group had an excellent tab on, how much the police new about them and their crimes.

      I am sure, that both the KGB, Stasi, CIA etc, all had tremendous benefit of the Danish centralized register. Just as a lot of countries intelligence services will benefit from eg. a central US, or Japanese citizen ID database. Eg. Agent [ID] just moved to an area where [fascilitate] is located. He also got a raise, putting him in the same income bracket as known agents performing [function].

      The ending of this rant:
      Identity theft is just as easy with a centralized ID database as without, and probably more convenient for the thief.
      And finally don't even think about the mess of troubles if one ever is deleted by the Danish CPR register (happens sometimes). Even with a valid ID as a passport, two hundred witnesses and your birth certificate, you are denied everything, like wage, a bank account, pension, etc. Even if the state /county officials /bank tellers /insurence agents are convinced about your identity, nothing can be done, since you are not in the CPR.

  • Most countries... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kobal ( 597997 )
    ...already have identification numbers, be they for ID cards, social security or both. In most cases, the only centralized information is in the number itself, linked to the name. I haven't heard of any widespread falsification through hacking. Of course, if the number itself isn't directly based on the info, which is instead stored in a database, things could get awry... Yet, it's weird people would complain about getting such a unique id number when database cross-referencing is already common practice.
  • by SoSueMe ( 263478 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:43AM (#4011214)
    From the article:
    "the new ID numbers -- for each of Japan's 126 million citizens...."
    Three paragraphs later:
    "About four million of Japan's 127 million people...."
    At that rate of population explosion, how long till they run out of number combos?
  • have any of you ever been to japan? the idea of privacy is silly. they never had any, what would they be giving away exactly?

  • Get used to it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bildstorm ( 129924 ) <peter@buchy.shh@fi> on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:46AM (#4011228) Homepage Journal

    I actually think this is a good idea.

    People in the U.S. gripe about identity theft left and right. Part of the reason it's so easy to perform identity theft is that while a social security number is tied to a person, it's only tied by the fact it was assigned. Remember, we recycle these stupid numbers.

    I have a Finnish ID number as well, since I lived there for quite some time. That one actually makes sense. It's my birthday in DDMMYY form, plus three digits and a letter. That identifies where I was born, when I was born, and my gender. It's not exactly easy to steal from people, since it really is tied to the person, not simply assigned.

    Technically in Finland, you don't have to give out the number, but in reality you use it for a number of things. The cool part is that they write down the last part (the three digits and letter) when checking credit cards, lessening credit card fraud. Anyone remember when they used to check stuff here in the U.S.?


    • It's my birthday in DDMMYY form, ...

      Doesn't that format start to cause problems with anyone over 100 years old?
    • Re:Get used to it (Score:2, Informative)

      by breezer ( 184052 )
      Actually the example id number "040463-395F" has incorrect checksum. The Finnish ID number has a checksum digit to detect incorrect ID numbers.

      The first six digits tell your birthday in DDMMYY form. The next digit can be "+" if your born in 18XX, "-" if your born in 19XX or "A" if born in 20XX. The next three digits contain a consecutive number to uniquely identify people born who were born in the same day. This number is even for female and odd for male.

      The last digit is a checksum calculated from the first 9 numbers of the ID. This 9 digit number is divided by 31 and the remainder of this division determines the last digit of the ID.

      e.g. in this case:
      040463395 / 31 = 1305270, remainder 25.
      For remainder of 25 the checksum digit is T, not F. (remainder = 0-9, checksum digit = 0-9. Remainder = 10, checksum digit = A, 11 = B, 12 = C, etc.)

  • Oh my god... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MosesJones ( 55544 )

    How scary is that, they know where you work, they know how much you earn, they know how old you are, they know your gender, they know how many kids you have, they know who your parents are.

    This is so scary, and even worse every few years they let you put a poxy "X" on a piece of paper to say you agree with it.

    This has to be the biggest non-story of the year, almost every country already does this. You pay taxes, the goverment knows who you are... avoiding taxes then you are a criminal.
  • Too much fuss (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Saib0t ( 204692 ) <saibotNO@SPAMhesperia-mud.org> on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:46AM (#4011235)
    There's way too much fuss over something very legitimate, IMHO.

    As a belgian citizen, I've been living with a mandatory national ID card for all my life (well, from age 12 anyway). This card holds my names, adress, name of wife and kids, a national ID number (birth date + some digits) and a picture. Is that national ID card an infringement on my privacy? NO!

    I use the card to identify with state services such as when I want a copy of an official document, when I go vote, etc.; when requested by the police, for banking purposes: I have to show my ID card before doing a withdrawal at the bank, to create a new bank account, ... But NOTHING besides that.

    Does my governement keep all this data in a database. Sure they do. What do they do with that? Most certainly nothing.

    I fail to understand how you all people see this as an end to privacy. It's your government after all, they're supposed to know who's living where, who voted (voting is mandatory here). There's no pretending you're someone else than you, because that ID card is mandatory and there's a picture of you on it. So you can't pose as someone else (and someone can't pose as you).

    Do you remember the story of that wife who kept being arrested because she shared the same name as a wanted criminal? That could never happen with a national ID card, because all she'd have to do was present it and be left alone.

    National ID cards are GOOD, not bad.

    • by Saib0t ( 204692 )
      Sorry to reply to my own post, but this [cleveland.com] is the kind of thing that a national ID card would prevent.
    • Re:Too much fuss (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dave Bailey ( 458519 )
      Several people have commented on European schemes which run without too many difficulties or objection.

      Maybe the point here is that Europeans trust their governments more than Americans do...
    • I think I know what is the worry: people think we'll end up with a Soviet-style internal passport that the law enforcement authorities can ask to be checked anytime.

      Anyway, we're most of the way there already here in the USA. Most of the state-level driver's license data are nationally linked, mostly as a means to prevent truckers from running up multiple traffic citations in several states and other states not knowing about it (truckers used to have multiple state commercial trucker's licenses).
      • And then again ... why not? Do we really want a bunch of illegal immigrants running around ... or how to we tell the difference between then and true nationals. Wait ... racial profiling?

        In South Africa you have an ID booklet (card system will occur sometime in the future ... shees) and a passport. Both are optional, although you will always have an ID number, and need an ID book to vote, open bank accounts, etc. (Proving your ID without a birth certificate becomes fun though, by all accounts).

        In addition, when you reach 16 your ID book is reissued (your "junior" ID expires when you reach 16), and you are fingerprinted before being issued your new ID. Shock, horror.

        Privacy implications? Sure ... if you are prepared to brush a place and run a fingerprint match, you can figure out if I was there. But then few people or organisations are likely to go to that trouble unless we're actually talking about a criminal indicent, which is precisely the case in which you want ALL adult fingerprints on file.

        Does this mean I support genetic fingerprinting as well? No. A fingerprint in and of itself does not tell you anything significant about a person. A generic fingerprint does - many industries would love to get hold of that sort of information to load your insurance/medical premiums, to name but one possibility.

    • Re:Too much fuss (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cduffy ( 652 ) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:24AM (#4011718)
      I fail to understand how you all people see this as an end to privacy. It's your government after all, they're supposed to know who's living where, who voted (voting is mandatory here).

      Since when was it my government's job to know anything about me?

      My government's job is to offer services to the public -- law enforcement, fire protection, roads, public education, that sort of thing. Good government is the servant of the people, not their master. Anything which upsets this order is dangerous in the extreme.
      • Re:Too much fuss (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Saib0t ( 204692 ) <saibotNO@SPAMhesperia-mud.org> on Monday August 05, 2002 @11:26AM (#4012121)
        Since when was it my government's job to know anything about me?

        My government's job is to offer services to the public -- law enforcement, fire protection, roads, public education, that sort of thing. Good government is the servant of the people, not their master. Anything which upsets this order is dangerous in the extreme.

        Examples of needs to know where and who you are:
        - You didn't pay your taxes and left the place you lived in. As a responsible citizen, you're supposed to. The government needs to know where you are.
        - You're elligible for a tax rebate: Where does the government send it to?
        - A criminal decided to kill you. He does but the governement doesn't know where you are.
        - A fire in the woods is coming near your house, you live in the basement of your hut in the forest, the fire brigade needs to know to warn you.
        - You just turned 100 (congratulations, by the way). You don't have to pay any taxes anymore, you weren't aware of that, but you receive a letter in the mail from the gov to inform you of that nice situation.
        - You kidnapped 7 girls, the FBI finds traces of your DNA on the location the rapts were made. Now they know where you (used to) live to start looking for clues as to where the girls are.
        The list goes on, there are plenty of cases where the government needs to know about you...

        The job of the government is to serve you, but to do that, the government needs to be aware of your existence and your whereabouts. If you don't trust your governement, maybe is it a sign that you need another one...

        • Re:Too much fuss (Score:3, Insightful)

          by swillden ( 191260 )

          If you don't trust your governement, maybe is it a sign that you need another one...

          Ah, but even if you trust the government you have now, how can you be certain you'll trust the next one?

  • by Khazunga ( 176423 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @08:55AM (#4011283)
    ... of a national ID number. In Europe its quite common -- except for the brits. The real question is whether companies or the state can do joins on the different databases.

    Portuguese laws forbid different entities from cross-referencing their databases, without explicit approval of the citizens. The way it is written, it even affects different departments of the state -- leading to a social security number, a tax ID number, etc.

    I think it is a lot worse the way its done in the US, where everyone and their dog knows your SS#. It is very easy to cross-reference the DBs. At least here, they'd need to do some data mining...

    • Firstly, we have a National Insurance (NI) Number which is equivalent to the US SSN and is used to track your income tax and NI (payroll tax) payments. You don't need one to work, but it makes employed life a lot easier.

      Getting an NI number if you're not born here can be difficult. My girlfriend is an EU citizen living in the UK (nearly 2 years) now and stil can't persaude the social security people to give her one. She recently had a letter from the Inland Revenue (IRS-equiv) asking her for her NI number so they can make sure her income tax and NI is correctly accounted for.

      <sigh> well at least it shows that Big Brother will always be defeated by good old fashioned British incompetence.

      The other ID number we have is the National Health Service (NHS) number. This you get at birth or, if you're not British-born but legally resident, on registration with your local doctor. My girlfriend had no trouble at all getting one - she just presented her EU passport at the surgery and stated that she was living in the area and wanted to register with a doctor, they wrote down the passport details and her new NHS card turned up with mine (you get a new one whenever you change doctor).

      Originally a continuation of the old wartime ID card number scheme (ID cards were abolished in 1952) they appear to have changed the NHS numbers recently to a new series - when we moved to London two years ago I got a brand new NHS number in a new format. It appears to bear no relation to my NI number and the govt doesn't, yet, officially do data matching between the two.
    • Portuguese laws forbid different entities from cross-referencing their databases, without explicit approval of the citizens.

      And there is the problem. In America, government doesn't look out for the interests of its citizens. Instead, once a database is created businesses would begin to lobby, and shortly thereafter they would have complete access to this.

      Let me give you one example. In my state of Michigan, when you apply for a drivers license your information is put into a database. The state then immediately sells this data to telemarketers and junk mail people. You can opt out, but it is a pain in the ass (you have to submit a paper form at the local secretary of states office, and a visit to this office is similar to a visit to hell) so no one does it.

      It is a shame that the SSN has been used for so many things. Only now are people beginning to realize that it is better not to use this number due to identity theft. Another example, my university now assigns real student ID numbers instead of using the SSN for privacy reasons. Businesses should start using phone numbers exclusively for looking up accounts (many already do this).

  • Japan, and many other countries in Asia already had a "family registry" system in place. Taiwan has one too, although their system has always been a national system. It's not particularly unusual. The only thing that's different here than the system already in place is that the information gathered is slightly more, and better tracked on a national scale.

    One thing I find rather amusing about this whole affair is that the fact Japan is standardizing what local municipalities have been doing is causing a ruckus, and that the whole "mandatory" aspect of it is trumped up. Japanese citizenship is particularly restrictive already, and given the heavy government involvement in the nationalized school system, etc. it should be no surprise that something such as an identity number should make such a big deal.

    Having the information of who lives where is not harmful in of itself, as long as there are severe checks in place as to who can access it and under what circumstances one can access that information. Understandably many in this forum perhaps distrust anyone with this sort of information, but at some level there needs to be some standard of information for every individual in order to do anomaly detection (read: finding terrorists).

    I think those of us in countries with a very heavy emphasis on "individual rights" as opposed to "group rights" have a rather strong tendency to look at everything in the view of "self over society" as opposed to particularly respecting other nation-systems and such. Given that it seems the legislation passed, I doubt that the majority does not support this action.

    That being said, the United States could not (at this time anyway) pass anything resembling that... people are way too enamored with states rights for anything to ever become nationalized.

  • by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @09:00AM (#4011298)
    In a country where video rental stores routinely demand your social security number before they allow you to rent tapes (and it takes a minimum 30-minute argument with 3 managers to convince them that's an illegal requirement), most or all of the harms of universal ID number are already here. Let's get some of the benefits. With a national ID number and national ID card,

    1. Voter registration can be eliminated: Along with all the civil rights battles that entails. Anyone old enough can simply show up at a polling place on election day and vote. This eliminates a whole level of exclusionism.

    2. Driver's Licenses can be just for drivers: So, so many Americans who can't drive (for reasons including age, disability, etc.) fight to maintain their driver's licenses because it's HARD to participate in society and commerce without one. A national ID card would provide all persons with an ID that merchants wouldn't question -- and no need for a driving test. Furthermore, people who know that they're unsafe, incapable drivers would have an alternative to keeping their licenses. This would allow them to avoid the temptation to drive.
  • by altgrr ( 593057 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @09:00AM (#4011300)
    If the Government chooses to keep such information about you, that's fine. I for one would find life much easier if my health records were accessible to every doctor's surgery - when I come home from uni, I have to re-register if I want a doctor's appointment.

    Far, far more important that the storage of such data is who is allowed to retrieve it. For example, if there were to be a medical study, you might expect that your health records (relevant parts thereof), gender, age, region and the kind of conurbation you live in (village/town/city etc) were made available, but no personal identifiers.

    I find it far more of an invasion of privacy that my telephone and e-mail contacts are abused by people or companies wanting to sell their wares for me. The only reason we might be afraid of a centralised data repository is that it could be hacked. I would contend that, providing appropriate measures are taken, and that photographs are not stored on the database, there is nothing to be afraid of.
    • It comes down to, how do you define privacy anyway? What are you, as an individual, concerned about keeping private?

      Here's some possibly hypothetical cases, that may or may not be an issue in your area right now. Imagine your reaction to each:

      1. You commit an indiscretion and contract an STD. It gets treatment, and you're clean again. Do you want every IT worker in the health system (doctor's office, hospitals, insurance companies) accessing this record? Maybe one of them knows your parents...
      2. You have a conviction for assault on your record. It's 10 years old, you served a bit of time, and it's only because you had a substandard lawyer and no money that you got convicted at all. And in fact the actual offense consisted of a single punch after provocation (which original provocation went unwitnessed). Does every prospective employer need to know about this?
      3. You are checking out certain material from the library, or buying certain books from the store...does law enforcement need to know what you're reading?
      4. Systems are put in place to track purchases of alcohol and tobacco against the Number. Insurance companies have access to this information. And you are buying and pounding down way more booze than is good for you. But you never get in the car after drinking. You get refused driver's insurance, or the rate gets jacked up, because of "reasonable suspicion".
      5. All the posts you have made to certain politics newsgroups get gathered and analyzed by the police, against your email address, which is then correlated to you by asking your ISP. And you've not been complementary about the government...you get paid a visit by the cops.

      These are possible privacy issues. Some may not be concerns now, and may never be. But they could be. Anyone of us can think of many more possible cases. As the above poster said, it's partially a case of who is allowed to retrieve it. But it's also a question of what gets gathered.

      It's also a question of what gets retrieved. I am not knee-jerk about keeping all personal info private, and I don't even mind information sharing and cross-referencing to a degree, but I _do_ want the information to be depersonalized most of the time. I mean, do you really need your employer's wife, who works at the Health department, finding out that you, by name, have undergone treatments for substance abuse? And she is only assigned to data entry tasks? Probably not.

      A lot of times when people start hypothesizing like this, the typical reaction from some unimaginative or narrow-minded people is, "if you have nothing to hide then..." Well, that's a crock. Number one, everyone has something to hide - it just may not be a tracked datum at the moment. But it could be. And before you get so blase, think about relatives and friends for a moment - you think that all of them are also as squeaky clean as you are? When something like this affects a child of yours, or a friend, then it's a different story...

      Mind you, this kind of thing has always been a problem. Modern technology has little to do with it...most places and most times people knew a heck of a lot about you. So in this respect, we (at least in North America in the year 2002) are operating with a bit of tunnel vision.

    • by BlackHawk ( 15529 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:37AM (#4011809) Journal
      I find it far more of an invasion of privacy that my telephone and e-mail contacts are abused by people or companies wanting to sell their wares for me. The only reason we might be afraid of a centralised data repository is that it could be hacked. I would contend that, providing appropriate measures are taken, and that photographs are not stored on the database, there is nothing to be afraid of.

      I suppose it's too much to hope you're joking. Out of curiosity, where do you think those telemarketers and spammers are getting your contact information in the first place? There are several states (Michigan comes to mind immediately) that have no law prohibiting the state government from selling the data they collect to any business who buys it. The fear that the centralized databased could be cracked is actually minor. After all, why break in, when you can slip the doorman a large enough payment, and have him open the door for you?

      In addition, given the current climate of terror running amuck in the US ever since 9-11 and the passage of the so-called Patriot Act, there will be little resistance in the halls of the legislature to idea of some kind of biometric data attached to the central record. Whether that's a photo, a retinal print or a genetic sequence would remain to be seen.

  • I have read several posts from people residing in other countries. It seems that, for the most, part all have national ID systems in place. Most have also claimed that this is a workable system and not an invasion of privacy.

    My question would be how of these countries have strict laws prohibiting the sale or release of the national ID system information? Most of my concern over a national ID is not with the identification per se, but what could be done with the information later.

    The US has had many, many historical abuses of privacy and private information (McCarthy-ism, Hoover's FBI) that raises concerns to the public. These abuses are not long in the past for the US, and make US citizens think twice about the government holding all that information.

    And when a Senator is "puchased" by a rich lobby, how long will it be before the information is "for sale" because of legislation?
  • As mentioned in previous (and surely following) posts, this kind of PIN (as in Personal Identification Number) already exists in some form or another in many countries. In fact, I doubt that any country with a social security system can do without such a number.

    The danger of these primary keys are not their existence, but the amount of data you can obtain when knowing them. For instance, how much a problem can it be is the social security file contains only your name/birthdate/gender?
    Now imagine that you could (and at least here in France, it's technically impossible: even the social security services can't find their way in their own files!) correlate with a given PK the whole life of a person: from is medical history to his credit card log? Here is the real danger!
    Fortunatly for us, such a thing is far from achievable for three reasons:
    - the different databases are not interconnected, making a correlation a pain in the cheek
    - access to some of these databases is restricted, as in "please show me sufficient proof of your identity to access your own information". You'll certainly have more information from news papers archives
    - the PK mentionned above is only used in just a few files, all the others mainly indexed on your firstname/lastname. Yeah, regularly someone "dies" in place of someone else...

    Add to this the cluelessness of government services regarding technology as a whole, and before they come to know anything about relationnal databases, we'll all be far more controled and filed by RIAA/MPAA and affiliates.

  • The problem is of course not the fact that your national government keeps your identity in a database in order to be able to issue passports and drivers licenses and to collect taxes and social insurances.

    And neither would I consider it a problem that credit companies decide to share a database containing people with bad debts, as long as there are some good laws governing access to it (e.g. the organization maintaining the database is not allowed to share it with companies that do not have a banking license, and there must be an expiry date).

    The problem is that the government's ID number is much too "convenient" for commercial purposes if no restrictions are put on its use, because the state guarantees unicity and life-long validity.

    So, the shared use of such a number is the problem, because suddenly all kinds of commercial entities have a means to match their user databases. And if the same unique key can be used on a number of databases, then those databases effectively form a single database.

    To prevent that, any democratic government should explicitly forbid the use of national IDs in commercial applications, forcing commercial entities to keep their own databases.

    Commercial entities should also be prohibited to share any personal information (that is, anyting uniquely linked to a person) with other entities without explicit, prior consent, where you'd indicate exclusively what information you allow to be shared. That's the only way to prevent them from simply teaming up to set up a private version of the social security number, mandating it for every transaction.

    I see no reason why the public would want to help companies to track a person's identity and share it with others. If the government does, it's simply not acting on behalf of the public.

    We've got to start giving some counter pressure to those "mark of the beast" plans that are perverted commercial interests masquerading as ways to fight terrorism.
  • (NOTE: Anyone with firsthand experience on the Japanese system, please correct if if I'm wrong, these are just the ramblings of a gaijin reading the news from inside the U.S.)

    From what I read on the Japanese news sites, the problem is that this is a single nationwide database that will be available online, similar to the one that has been discussed in the recent past in the U.S. There's a great deal of concern about network hacking and identity theft.

    From an article on the issue:
    The system will link basic residency registries across the country by encoding information such as people's names, addresses, dates of birth and gender under 11-digit individual numbers. It will enable people to receive social benefits, such as children's allowances and pensions, without their resident cards, the government said. Officials also said the network will simplify administrative procedures, such as passport issuance, in the future.
    People say "Well, the US already has this in their Social Security number"... but a SS# is only part of the formula. To really do damage to someone the way the U.S. system operates, you need a few more pieces of information, like a driver's license number, bank account information, etc. Thankfully, the "American way" is to build your own system if you don't like someone else's (or even if you do like it, but want the credit for yourself), so there's a lot of gridlock and problems with getting data from one point to another between various state and national gov't agencies.

    Imagine how much identity theft would occur in the U.S. if there was one single database available online with all of this information, considering what OS the gov't would likely use to run such a database.

    Also, Japanese citizens already carry "resident cards". Ths is a similar concept to someone from the U.S. already having a SS# - why would they want or need ANOTHER government sponsored ID card? It's just another system where personal information can be stored and possibly accessed by someone that's not supposed to have it. Add to that the natural reluctance to having any government agency "keeping an eye" on them, and you can see the reason for the concern.
  • From what is described, it's quite different to the SSN (certainly as used in the UK). It sounds much closer to the PACI (Public Authority for Civil Information) database that is used in Kuwait. This is much more than an ID number. The database contains detailed records about you (such as address/marital status/number of children), and you are expected to keep it up to date.

    One example of how it used differently is in credit bureaux (which is where I came across it when we were developing one for a Kuwaiti bank). In the UK, when you apply for a loan, you give them your name and address, and this information is sent to the credit bureau to attempt to find your details. In Kuwait, you give them your PACI number, and the credit bureau will connect into the PACI database to retrieve any information that is wanted.

    Any system that wants to uniquely identify someone can just store this number, and rely on the PACI system to get the person's current address.

    In normal use, this is very sensible thing. You need to tell one place that you've moved. Everyone else's system will automatically be updated. However, when Kuwait was invaded, it became an extremely useful tool to track down anyone that the Iraqis were after.

  • (name, address, date of birth, gender, possibly more data)
    You know...it wouldn't be Japan if they didn't put blood type [angelfire.com] somewhere on there.
  • balance of power? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Aliks ( 530618 )
    So if there is an error in your records, you have to do all the work to correct it.

    If the bank, doctor, insurance company, supermarket thinks something bad about you, you have to find out about it, find out how to complain, explain your reasons for complaining etc.

    Most people don't do this unless its a serious matter like being refused credit. But in fact the price you are quoted by a vendor can be affected by what they know, or think they know. Having the ability to recognise you by a unique ID gives a lot of power to companies and they are not slow to use it. This is probably not illegal, or even immoral, but if I am forced to negotiate with someone for purchase of a product or service, I don't want them to have an armlock on me before I start.

    I would like to decide how much I tell them about myself, and when to tell it, not the other way round.
  • by Beautyon ( 214567 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @09:29AM (#4011428) Homepage
    Now this is the beginning of activation for Japan's national ID systems: 11
    digit number national ID, networked resident record system based on the ID
    numbers, and national ID card that based on contactless radio transaction
    smartcard, with 32 bit CPU and co-processor supposed to handle crypto and
    digital signature, which will be issued from 2003.

    This status makes computer security specialists worried. If organized
    crimes or foreign spy agents get access to one of these, that could be a
    disaster. Clear and present danger is here now. World class crackers might
    be difficult to ignore temptations to try their penetration skills on this
    network because it is built on Windows NT/2000 servers and possibly MS SQL.
    You got the idea?

    my bold emphasis (as if you needed it)

    Taken from Politech. [politechbot.com]

    Amazing ay?
  • OMG!! The MAN knows my name! The people who issued me a social security number and a birth certificate and whom I pay taxes to!

    The birth certificate of course already includes my name, gender and date of birth.

    The tax form, of course, involves giving them my address.

    So, now they've taken a bunch of information I was already giving them and put it in a central repository and assigned a number (called a KEY! sound scary, doesn't it!) to each record.

    So, now I can use that number.

    OMG! What is they find me! What if the government that is run by and for the people that I take part in in this great democracy knows my name and address! Maybe they'll come for me next!!

    Get a grip people,

    Justin Dubs
  • Identity numbers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Twylite ( 234238 ) <twylite.crypt@co@za> on Monday August 05, 2002 @09:43AM (#4011513) Homepage

    Every time someone mentions identity numbers, the YRO group gets up and slits their wrists. Why? Like it or not, you are identified every day but several numbers that you don't argue about, and probably have less control over.

    Let's start with the basics. Every country needs a central population register. If it doesn't have one, it can't recognise its citizens and afford them their rights; or take action to protect itself against illegal immigrants; or issue you with a passport. At the very least that system has your legal name (at birth) and your date of birth. Without an entry in that system you can't prove your age or citizenship.

    Now, as every database expert should know, full name and birth date do not have to be unique within a population. Therefore this "database" will include a unique number for every person. Even if its not given to you or used somewhere, you still have an identity number.

    Now let's look at the implications of using that number outside the system. First, you have a card which can be used for identification purposes. This has good and bad points. It can be used to secure your transactions (prevent fraud against you), but also to link you with a transaction (reducing privacy). The better the security system of the card, the more difficult it is to forge, and the better the trade-off.

    The ID card also serves to verify age. This is pretty important. How do you *know* she is 16? How does a bank know you are old enough to have a credit card? Many establishments that require age verification use a credit card or driver's license, but just because you are of the legal age to obtain one of these doesn't mean you actually have one. Not to mention that the legal age for driving is different in various parts of the world, and in many places you can get a credit card at any age if your parents sign surety.

    What about SSNs? They are commonly used for a variety of identification purposes, but are a very poor choice for this! Knowing an SSN is a direct route to being able to abuse an SSN (in most countries) -- it is a number you NEED to keep private, but the lack of a unified identification system often prevents that from happening.

    The lack of an ID card doesn't prevent the linking up of various disparate systems. In fact, most of these systems have poor design from a privacy standpoint, as they never had it in mind. You bank WILL know your SSN, drivers license, name, home address, and preferred make of condoms if it wants to. An ID system does not make this any more or less difficult.

    So what's the BAD part about mandatory ID cards? The government and/or industry may enact policies that require positive identification at a time when such identification should not be needed. And that is what privacy legislation is there to ensure does not happen.

    I, for one, like the fact that I have an identity card which is REQUIRED (by law) to be produced in any interactions with the government for the purposes obtaining passports, etc, or when opening accounts with a bank. It requires a fair amount of effort to fraudulently open an account in my name or otherwise impersonate me, and electronically secured (i.e. digitally signed) ID cards will make that more difficult in the future.

    On the other hand, I don't give my ID number out to people or institutions who don't require it. I am aware of the privacy implications of having that number, even if there is no publically accessible means of misusing it.

  • by bons ( 119581 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @09:50AM (#4011546) Homepage Journal
    What's important to Americans isn't privacy.

    It's the illusion of privacy.

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that between names, addresses, social security numbers, credit cards, drivers licenses, and hosts of other identification methods, tracking someone isn't very difficult. You match up the information on their tax forms with the information from their credit card purchases with the information at various country offices and you're pretty much good to go.

    It's like the lock on your car door. People lock their car doors because it makes them feel secure. But if they lock the keys in their car, they know they can call a locksmith and he'll have that door open in 60 seconds. What they don't think about (and what they don't want to think about) is that if a locksmith can open it up in 60 seconds then a good theif can do it in half the time, especially as the code required to make a new key is right there in plain sight.

    For now Americans have the illusion of privacy. It makes them happy and it makes the job of those people who would gather information about them easier.
  • A single number won't cut it. I will need my own class C subnet for all the implants I'll have by the time it passes through congress. I guess my nanobots can be behind a masquarading firewall. :)
  • that Americans know first hand (and second, third) what can happen to freedom. I've seen many other posts on here from citizens of countries with a National ID, and they say that it doesn't hurt privacy and that its gold in their hands.

    The problem (or potental problem) is that how do you assure that 1)the information is safe (from hackers,crackers,id thieves, goverment officals), 2)that it won't be used for evil (for example Nazis or the Soviet Union) and 3)that only the proper (read: legally held responsible ones) people have access to your data. I feel fear everytime I hear about this crap (even though it is currently in place anyway), because I don't want my local librarian or grocery store, knowing if I have an STD or I'm gay or I'm a smoker, or I'm a buddist or I'm a Christian or I'm overdrawn or I'm divorced, etc etc.

    Americans for all their bitching, know that freedom is easy to lose (even though they passed the Goddamned USAPA). And even harder to get back. And you are also talking about some of the more enlightened ones (those that read slashdot), as they think about these things and understand the technology involved.

    I have some questions for those in countries with national ids....Would you feel safe if you we in the Unpopular minority of your country? Do you think that that national registry, would protect you if they suddenly declared all (insert your favorite minority here) to be evil and must be cleansed from the earth for the good of your country?.....people rarely want to think scary thoughts.

  • In Canada you have to have a SIN number to work.
    It is used to track taxes, however unless someone pays you money they are basically not permitted to even ask for the number.

    Side point is that they are starting to use tax records to help keep the voting lists up to date.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson