How Blockchain Technology Could Help People Take Control Over Their Own Data Part 5

National Identity Systems in Various Countries.


Many countries currently have national identity systems that allow them to widely use national government-issued identifiers.


Identity System in the United States

For identification purposes, the United States uses a complex system of state driver licenses and national social security numbers. The agency that issues the social security numbers is the Social Security Administration, which is an independent agency within the United States federal government. The original purpose of issuance of the social security numbers was to help people track the benefits that had the rights to.

The federal government issued the first numbers almost one hundred years ago, in 1935, as a part of the New Deal series of initiatives. Within the first ninety days of the existence of the program, the federal government has issued about 25 million numbers. Originally, 45,000 post offices all around the country were using their equipment to type the card and were then sending the cards to Washington, D.C. Also, before 1986 it was typical for United States citizens to receive their social security numbers at around the age of fourteen, which is when teenagers were typically getting their first jobs. The only reason to get a social security number was to track income and not verify identity. Then, the government has introduced a requirement for parents to list social security numbers of the dependents on their taxes.


Registration system in China

The system of household registration is China is called Hukou. A record in the system serves as proof that a person is a resident of an area. The information on the record contains such fields as name, name of the parents, name of the spouse, and date of birth. In China, social programs have different benefits depending on whether a person has an agricultural (or rural) or non-agricultural (or urban) residency status, which is why the program is somewhat similar to a caste society system. Historically, urban residents would receive many more benefits, including education, health care and pensions, while agricultural residents would often receive very little. In recent years, the Chinese government has been conducting reforms with the purpose of bringing equality to the system, but many people claim that none of the changes have resulted in any substantial improvements for rural residents. In China, mentions of the registration systems date back to the fourteenths century.


National identification in India

In India, the system of national registration of citizens and residents is called Aadhaar. In Aadhaar, a person gets a unique 12-digit number, similarly to how residents of the United States get 9-digit social security numbers. However, one of the main differences between Aadhaar and identification numbers in other countries is that the Aadhaar number contains information not only about demographic, but also biometric data.

Aadhaar is the largest database and identification system of biometric information in the world, with over 1 billion records. The government of India started the program in 2009. Before the introduction of the program, many people in the country were not able to get the government benefits because they lacked proper identification. Today, the program allows both businesses and government offices to use biometric information instead of paper cards to identify citizens.

For instance, offices of Western Union in India allow employees of the company to identify customers using fingerprints instead of traditional identification.

In 2014, the government of India has ordered that banks in the country should start allowing people to open bank accounts based on the Aadhaar identification. Because of this, the number of residents of the country with a bank account grew by about 250 million between 2011 and 2015.

In 2017, the government of the country has announced that it plans to have all financial organizations in the country to move to Aadhaar-compliant solutions, which means that one day India could become a completely cashless society.


National Identity System in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom introduced national identity cards in 2006 as a part of the Identity Cards Act 2006. The act created personal identification cards that were linked to a National Identity Register database. The Act has later been repealed. It has led to many debates, including debates about human rights, computer security and politics. In 2006, many of the concerns had to do not just with the card itself, but also with the databases that would store the information about the cards.

Following the 2010 general election in the country, the newly elected government has stated that it would get rid of the program and the cards as a part of the series of measures aimed to protect the civil liberties in the country. A document that the government published in May of 2010 stated that removal of the program would save close to one billion pounds in maintenance costs over a decade. The government has officially destroyed the register on February 10, 2011 by shredding five hundred hard drives with data.