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A Number For Everything

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the at-least-there's-no-potential-for-abuse dept.

The Internet 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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Spootnik (518145) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249386)

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Universal SPAM!? (3, Insightful)

Maul (83993) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249388)

Oh great, now it will be even easier for spammers to make sure their junk reaches everyone.

Re:Universal SPAM!? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#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:Universal SPAM!? (1)

papa248 (85646) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249478)

Sure... all they have to do now is write a little program:

int a=1;
while (a mail spam(a);

Ehh, sorry its been a while since EECS 380. Downside to becoming an EE instead of a CE/CS.

shit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249389)

The shit has hit the fan

It isn't a US govt scheme (5, Funny)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249390)

Its much bigger than just the US govt, they have a very minor role here. This is an IETF/ITU thing

Re:It isn't a US govt scheme (5, Informative)

jaanderson (519213) | more than 13 years ago | (#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 []

Re:It isn't a US govt scheme ...bah! (2)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249533)

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!

ENUM, or new SSN? Sure!!! (2, Insightful)

david614 (10051) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249392)

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.

What about identity theft? (3, Interesting)

Agent Green (231202) | more than 13 years ago | (#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...

Re:What about identity theft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249422)

An SSN _can_ be replaced in the case of identity theft, but it takes a near act of god to get it to happen.

Re:What about identity theft? (5, Interesting)

danheskett (178529) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Re:What about identity theft? (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249490)

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 really their problem. It's not your fault their databases we're coded without any way to change the SSN. Don't cry them a river at all.

SS number (0)

tstock (213857) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249394)

How many times did you choose to use your social security number as a username ?

Re:SS number (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249439)

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

Re:SS number (0)

ScumBiker (64143) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249477)

zero. zip. nada. none. Come on, do people acutlly use their social security number as a username? Who the hell thought of that?

Changing numbers (5, Insightful)

SBChoDogg (93091) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Re:Changing numbers (2, Funny)

papa248 (85646) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249510)

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!

Re:Changing numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249516)

It won't be too difficult, if designed correctly from the ground up, to implement a block/warn system like AOL's Instant Messenger.

Cool Idea??? NOT. (1)

elmegil (12001) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249396)

Can you say "goodbye privacy"? Can you believe any of the wacko right isn't going to claim this is your beast number, signifying the last days are here? And given how much influence they have over our current leaders, you think this is really going to happen?

Zionism is racism (-1)

Ralph JewHater Nader (450769) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249398)

This is obviously a jewish scheme to register the population of the United States, in just one step of their plan for global domination. Do not be deceived by this bold-faced backstabbing!

Re:Zionism is racism (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249488)

Hey, old sport, glad to see you're back on the trolling circuit. How ya been?

-Ariel "Ralph-hater" Sharon

Re:Zionism is racism (-1)

Ralph JewHater Nader (450769) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249519)

Pretty good. Hey... why don't you drop by my house? I've renovated my bathroom and basement, you really should take a look. I'll even let you inside.

Re:Zionism is racism (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249521)

Do not be deceived by this bold-faced backstabbing!

The expression is bald-faced, moron. Flamers like you lose all credibility when simple mistakes like yours are made.

Ehhh. (2, Insightful)

BiggestPOS (139071) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249399)

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.

Re:Ehhh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249479)

this system will be neccessary... if all humans are as vapid as you. it is in no way neccessary. someone mod down the troll or lemming that this dude is.

Kanji is the way to go! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Squonk (128339) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249401)

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!

Re:Kanji is the way to go! (4, Funny)

Squeeze Truck (2971) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249498)

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!

/. (-1)

Spootnik (518145) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249404)

///// ......
///// .........
///// ..........
///// ..........
///// ..........
///// .........
///// ......

Important Stuff:

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Colour By Number (1)

KerrAvonsen (518107) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249405)

Yes, indeed, remembering such numbers would be a pain; like having to type in IP addresses instead of domain names. The difficulty is, they are allowing themselves to be limited by the limitations of existing technology - to wit, telephones only have digits on them.

And can you imagine the privacy issues with such numbers? Telephone SPAM, here we come!


ICQ (1)

pen (7191) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249406)

While CompuServe didn't have much luck with their numerical e-mail addresses, ICQ seems to work quite well. IMHO, it is much easier to give someone a 6-9 digit number for ICQ than spell out a screen name for AIM. It is certainly within human ability to remember one 11-digit number.

Re:ICQ (3, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249442)

I think ICQ UINs work because for the most part we don't care about them. You only need a UIN when you're setting up a new ICQ instance on a computer somewhere, and you only have to remember your own. The rest can be found using the search features of ICQ fairly easily (assuming your friends don't change their information constantly). It's not like you say "Hmm, I want to contact person X, what was his 12 digit number again?"

Re:ICQ (3, Insightful)

agentZ (210674) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249455)

Yes, but ICQ lets you give a user an alias that you see on the screen. You don't get messages from "1636181," they show up as "Tammy says:" Plus, It's far easier for humans to recognize the error between "Stephen" and "Stepehn" than "1636181" and "1631681"

Think, child! (2, Insightful)

General_Corto (152906) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249407)

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

Well, I'm sure you don't remember lots of (up to) 12 digit sequences that already exist, but have no problems remembering things like '' and ''. 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.

Re:Think, child! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249431)

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.

Famous dates in history:

September 3, 2001: Slahdot user General_Corto invents the telephone directory.

Re:Think, child! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249512)

That's fucking funny.

How? (1)

ananke (8417) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249433)

How would you implement this for the different types of media? I'm specifically talking about phone numbers. 1-800-hot-love is not a good DNS implementation if you ask me. I'm not trying to be a troll, but how do you envision this? I'm really interested in how this could possibly work, since I can't think of a way myself.

Re:Think, child! (1)

papa248 (85646) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249440)

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.

Yeah, sure... until some rich Billionaire sues me for having the exact same name as him, when his is trademarked and registered by the USPO.

Shouldn't this be filed under privacy? (1)

iggyflashbulb (244946) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249408)

This sounds like yet another attempt to give up personal privacy in exchange for a minor personal convenience.

Re:Shouldn't this be filed under privacy? (1)

StormRider01 (231428) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249438)

Um, it's under YRO: Your Rights Online...

Interesting but what if (2, Insightful)

loconet (415875) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249410)

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.

Re:Interesting but what if (1)

papa248 (85646) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249495)

Good point, but I think the whole idea is that with this scheme, you can effectively eliminate all of your other identifiers.

Just pretend you're in that Senior OS design class and you decide to name all of your identifiers foo and/or bar. Its legit.

This will never happen. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249412)

This will never come about. Why? Fundamentalist Christians will identify this ENUM with the "mark of the beast" in the Book of Revelations. I know that sounds bizarre, but there are some people out there with some really odd belief systems. And there are enough of these people to actually have an influence on government policy.

Possible problems with this (1)

ananke (8417) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249413)

1) They don't mention anything on how the e-mail would be handled [will the e-mail address be an alias in some central database, which you could change, ie forward it to your regular account? or would they have their own mail servers, which would handle all of the people in united states? no details whatsoever]

2) Spam, spam and more spam. It wouldn't be hard to write a script to e-mail everybody in united states at once.

3) How would it be administered? What about changing your location? Let's say I'm moving from California to New York. I would like to keep my e-mail, but my area code would be different. What do we do in this case?

This could be an interesting idea, but the implementation would take years, imho. I'd like to see a detailed description of this plan first.

I'm afraid (1)

Doom Ihl' Varia (315338) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249414)

Ahh. The wonders of the digital age. People are numbers. Information is controlled. Everything is in nice little packages. Everything you hear, see, and read controlled and monitored easily. Am I the only one worried that "individual" and "outlaw" will soon be practically interchangable? You know, I could of swore I read a book about this.......

Re:I'm afraid (-1)

Spootnik (518145) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249465)

Like you said, induhviduals* would get their privacy abused.

Induhvidual: A person who is less intelligent and less astonishingly attractive than you are.

Sheesh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249417)

I can't see how anyone can think this is a good idea.

Another way for someone to steal my identity (medical history, my credit history, etc).

Thanks but no thanks...

666 (0)

N3P1u5U17r4 (457760) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249419)

The number of the beast.

Already Happening (1)

TheWhiteOtaku (266508) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249424)

At my public high school, we are already assigned a nine digit number that does basically what the article proposes that this universal ID would serve.

It sounds like a neat idea, but it's immensely annoying.

Back in my day we had five digits (1)

zenyu (248067) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249481)

Having a 'permanent record' number in high school is a different thing. When they mess up your record it isn't propagated everywhere instantly.

Whenever I read one of these stories I tend to think it's a leak in the matrix. We're not this stupid right? SSN isn't a big enough problem?

Like many, I don't have a cell phone to avoid reachability. I know a few people with 'secret' cell phones, but they have to change their number a bit too often for my lazyness factor.

We're already treated as if we have one. (1)

smnolde (209197) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249427)

It's called the SSN, or Social Security Number.

The SSN is *NOT* supposed to be our unique personal identifier, but is treated as one anyway.

All this means is... (1)

papa248 (85646) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249428)

more trouble for me and my girlfriend. "No, I'm sorry honey! I SWEAR I dialed! I must have made a typo! Besides, I'm not the one who emailed last night!!! Give me a break... we went from to and we're supposed to go back? Soon I expect it to remind me of the days in the 50s when my phone number was TY-63202. That's 896-3202 to you younger ones. We always seem to be going from numbers to words and back to numbers. so now, "The White House number of 1-202 -456-1414 would become " Or, more like .1HIOLGA.0B.1e in phone-letter speak. Better yet, why not use hex? I'd love to tell people my phone number was F00F or B00B5.

How is this different? (0)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249430)

We already have a number for an address, a number for social security, an if you're in highschool a student id.
these are the numbers we use to talk to the government already, what's your problem with having fewer to write down when filling out government forms?

Re:How is this different? (1)

khuber (5664) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249484)

Okay, you first then. You will now be known as 0.

I hope you enjoy all the spam and junk mail, 0.


Re:How is this different? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249531)


For that, Kevin, you get a cool number, like 69.

No problem remembering (1)

Mononoke (88668) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249432)

And remembering these 11 digit numbers could be fun
There won't be any problem remembering. They'll just tattoo the number on your arm.

Worked for Adolf, didn't it?

IPV6 (2, Interesting)

frleong (241095) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249434)

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.

Re:IPV6 (1)

helloRockview (205000) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249464)

There certainly are enough unique IPv6 addresses.

But IP addresses are useless without coherent routing schemes. How would individuals utilize these addresses? There's really no such thing as single-IP address portability, so it's not as if you could just take the address anywhere (to any telco/provider, etc.) and use it.

Interesting concept, though.

Re:IPV6 (1)

frleong (241095) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249485)

If there are domain name servers for translating names to IP addresses, there should be route servers that lookup the route (or routes) for a specific IP address in the future. Of course, it should be really the future when computing power is cheap enough to be nearly 100% pervasive to all households.

Author needs a math lesson. (1)

QuestKing (219445) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249436)

According to 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.

Does anyone else find it interesting that no matter what country/area code scheme is used, there are still only 100 billion (or 100 million, as the author cleverly states to increase his word count) combinations available?

Interesting & alarming..not sure how userful (1)

helloRockview (205000) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249437)

It's an interesting concept, but at the same time very alarming. Seems like a standardized communications identifier will just be an entree for spammers, telemarketers and con artists to get in touch with their victims in an easier manner.

I'm wondering just what true benefit this actually provides? I've seen a few independent telephone companies who have tried to offer single-number unified messaging, voice and fax without much success (i.e. your phone AND fax number is 2125555555, your email address has an alias of and your homepage has an alias to At the end of it all, you still need to ask a person what his/her unique number is, just like you have to do with a phone number today.

And who's going to fund this? Who's going to use it? Assigning me a government-issued email address is not going to make me stop using my current email address.

It does seem like an interesting way for the government to get in touch with people when they need to (maybe for emergency information, urgent messages, etc.), but what about infrastructure? If the government gives a sheep herder in remote parts one of these unique numbers, who's going to make sure the infrastructure is there for him to actually do anything with it?

Seems like there's a whole lot more thinking to be done about this one.

Not such a good idea. (5, Funny)

mwillems (266506) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249443)

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.

Re:Not such a good idea. (1)

papa248 (85646) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249459)

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!

Hmm... I think we do all have that info now.

...and that needed an AIDS test. Negative, I am happy to say.

Again... we still have all that. My guess is, all of our information/phone numbers/email etc will take the form of

Who is Number One? (3, Funny)

CliffSpradlin (243679) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249444)

Does anyone else have deja vu? (THE PRISONER TV SERIES)

Does it have to be a number? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249446)

Forget the fact that this is a terrible idea due to all the privacy implications.

But does it have to be a number? I know that personally, I couldn't remember a number for the life of me. I barely even know my own phone number (well yes, I do know it, but I forget what it is from time to time). Beat's me what the PIN number is for my bank card!? I just use the tellers, I hate all this techno mumbo jumbo bank cards anyway. And so on. My point here is, why not use the person's name? It's already somewhat unique (yes I know lots of people have the same name, but you could attach other info with it). I would much rather call John Smith by entering John Smith into my phone instead of dialing 911-555-1010.

Of course, technically looking up a number in a computer is much easier than a name. We don't think in digial, so why do we force ourselves into the digital realm?

Slave New World (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249447)

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.

ENUM FAQ (1, Informative)

N3P1u5U17r4 (457760) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249448)

Sort the names out first ... (3, Insightful)

os2fan (254461) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249449)

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.

What about home addresses??? (3, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Re:What about home addresses??? (2, Interesting)

chipuni (156625) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249507)

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.

Social Security Numbers and the Real Problem (2)

Omerna (241397) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249451)

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).

Re:Social Security Numbers and the Real Problem (0)

Flabdabb Hubbard (264583) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249503)

What makes you think it would be any better in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (to give it its proper name) ?

There are plenty of draconian security laws in place over there. And riots. And racism.
Trust me you are better off staying in the USA even with a unique ID number (that is, a unique ID number in addition to your Social Security number)

Alternately... (1)

UserChrisCanter4 (464072) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249454)

We could move to a more logical system.

People related to each other could be issued numbers ending in a similar series of digits. We could easily tell relationships by looking at these numbers. We could then take an internet style approach and run "DNS"-style systems, where a unique series of digits would correspond to a word. Since this word would relate to the last series of numbers in an identification string, we could refer to this string as a "last word" or "last name".

In order to retain a certain sense of relation and creativity, parents would be able to specify a word, or "name" that would correspond to the series of digits that preceeded the "last name".

Now we all know that people aren't computers, so they won't be able to just magically connect to a "DNS"-type server. In order to make it easy on the less technically inclined among us, we'll publish a large book containing the corresponding relationships between the "number" and the "name" of a person. Since the "last name" would be far more unique, we'll organize this listing according to those "names", and list the unique contact number next to those "names".

Ultimately, all of these numbers can be tracked by a central office, which will store the information relating to these unique numbers and their corresponding "names". This office will be responsible for this massive "social" program, and will also maintain the "security" of the program. Of course, they will issue cards containing this number, so that people can prove who they are when requesting important documents.

But then again, who am I to suggest a radical change in the system?

Hrrm.... (2)

Sheeple Police (247465) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249456)

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?

Re:Hrrm.... (0)

Flabdabb Hubbard (264583) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249494)

No you are confused. Miller's theory of chunking was to do with the fact that it is easier to remember sequences than random selections. e.g. If I tell you my 11-digit telephone number, you probably need to write it down, but you will remember your own number.

I cannot remember who the 7 items or less guy was, but that was to do with the number of things one could remember at any given time in short-term memory.

I am not a number! (2)

bill.sheehan (93856) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249457)

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...

Revelations 13:16 - 18 (5, Interesting)

Squeeze Truck (2971) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249461)

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 :)

Re:Revelations 13:16 - 18 (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249487)

Regardless of your political/religious belief or feelings of privacy, you have to recognize it is this passage which guarantees we won't have this kind of number for the immediate future.

If you thought the furor over stem cells was loud, this would be an order of magnitude worse.

Re:Revelations 13:16 - 18 (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249497)

Do not fear the loss of your precious karma since you are speaking the truth. We have been living in a time of Satan for many years now ever since the evil Social Security Administration started branding children with their unique marks. You cannot work without a social security number.. the mark of the beast's administration. This is the primary reason all fellow Christian soldiers must be diligent and protect their rights to bear concealed weapons in order to protect our families from the devil government. When the time comes we will unleash a torrential firestorm against the wicked politicians and cleanse their foul stench from the planet with their own bodily fluids.

Yea, I think it goes something like that. After we're done with the devil's government it's on to those bastards at TRW and Equifax.

Ooh man, I bet I'm setting off those Echelon alerts up the ass with this post. :-)

TPC has finally gotten to the President... (1)

soup (6299) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249462)

It sure sounds like the "Cerebral Communicator" plan we first heard about in The President's Analyst [] .

How about universal number portability? (2)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249463)

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.

Re:How about universal number portability? (1)

helloRockview (205000) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249480)

Good point.

Number portability is currently a hot topic in the various telecom sectors, especially cellular/mobile and there's a lot of research currently being doing in that area.

It's not just limited to cellular, though. If I move from NY to LA, why do I have to give up my phone number? (OK, all us tech-heads, know why).

But there may just be a day when the phone number you have now is the last one you'll ever have....but don't hold your breath.

The Times. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249466)

That's not The Times [] , that's The Times of London [] . Please do not confuse the Grey Lady with her dismal foreign imitators.

DNS link? (2)

imipak (254310) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249467)

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...

Nameber - Ira Levin's This Perfect Day (2)

Speare (84249) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249469)

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.

No, use a 128-bit GUID instead (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249471)

Why stop at an ENUM which doesn't guarantee uniqeness amoung non-human objects as well? Assign everybody a 128-bit number (a GUID), such as {979EE714-E220-4291-B6AF-36C08B787FED}. Provide ways to easily map it onto shorter lists (such as 20020201-103050) for the 103,050th person born on 1 Feb 2002, but store it in a database as 128 bits. That way all things are uniquely determined.

My Mother... (3, Insightful)

philovivero (321158) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249473)

... 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.


Sign of the Beast? (1)

Dolly_Llama (267016) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249476)

See what they didn't mention is that this number comes in the form of a bar code tatooed onto your forehead. All those without said barcode will be shunned from society..

Maybe Jack Chick was right all along....

Multiple Identities (3, Insightful)

ArticulateArne (139558) | more than 13 years ago | (#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

Read the RFC, See the Movie... (2, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249491) []

For people who like facts with their uninformed speculation.

yeah, what a great idea... (1)

AugstWest (79042) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249492)

and then we can all have wireless, handheld devices that we take with us everywhere, and each one of them will have our individual number in it, and then we can have a completely surveillance-based society.

oh, joy.

Re:yeah, what a great idea... (1)

papa248 (85646) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249517)

and then we can have a completely surveillance-based society.
Can you say CARNIVORE?

Caller ID takes on a new Meaning (1)

endikos (195750) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249496)

So every time I place a phone call to someone with caller ID, or to an 800 number which has to keep track of where calls are coming from just so they can pay thier phone bill, I'd be volunteering my medical history, my credit history, and the records of my wife and kids. Remember that theyre info is often tied into mine, and vice versa (IE Credit apps). Could almost be a Gattaca thing.

We doan' need no stinkin' DNS... (2)

crovira (10242) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249499)

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.

And what about all those religious folks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2249502)

I mean the whole numero o' de beastie thingy. What about that? And of course the ident theft, fraud being made easy, easier tracking by the gov, IETF/ITU being the ones responsible for not only assigning but also maintaining, distributing, and reissuing. Hmmm. Oh yeah, and conspiracy buffs will love it!!!!

You're all paranoid freaks. (1)

simetra (155655) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249508)

Honestly. Do you really think anyone cares about your "private" information? Even if this were somehow used as a means of violating your precious privacy, does it really matter? Would the playing field not be leveled for everyone? Or is this a great conspiracy to violate YOUR privacy, Joe Q. Geek, to steal your Star Trek memorabilia?

only if.. (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249518)

"I'll accept this if I'm number 1! "

or if you want the alternate joke...

"Who does number 2 work for!?"

THX-1138 (1)

nhurm (55699) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249525)

whats Your prefix ?
It takes very little contemplation (~3 milliseconds) to realize that this is not a good idea.
Unless you want to be branded like cattle.
Or happen to be the hearder.
This is a tactic of a police state for control not a convienience for individuals, custom built for abuse by those in and out of "authority" in what ever of the overlaping juridictions you happen to reside in to visit.

Please, no... (1)

mlknowle (175506) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249532)

I don't to be identified by one number; sometimes I want to be an employee, sometimes anonymous, and sometimes just myself

Government standardls like this - while not inherently oppresive - make it far too easy to pevert the system into something more sinister. Processing info is easy; it is collecting it is hard.

This already exists (3, Troll)

Gerv (15179) | more than 13 years ago | (#2249535)

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.

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