[Dave Birch] More developments in the digital identity laboratory that is the interface between the real and virtual worlds in the Far East.  The Chinese authorities are concerned that Internet users there are are accessing online games and web sites with fake identity card numbers to preserve their anonymity.  This is because some games and web sites need a name and identity card number when registering new users.  The result has been that Chinese gamers can download software that can generate fake identity card numbers given fake names and addresses.  The software can even forge the identities of residents in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, so that Chinese gamers can get on to servers in those countries.

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The obvious problem is that while the web sites demand a name and an identity card number they have no way of verifying which name and number combinations are valid.  A spokesman for the National Citizen Identity Information Center (I expect we’ll have one of these in the U.K in a couple of years) is quoted as complaining (correctly) that kids can access unsuitable content, which is a genuine problem.  Huang Chenqing, the secretary-general of the Internet Society of China says that “a lot of Internet users just don’t want to register under their real names for fear that they cannot do and say what they want on the Net as freely as before. What’s more, some Internet users don’t trust game companies and web sites with their personal information.”  Mr. Huang’s Internet Society has, incidentally, proposed requiring people to register their true identities when they open a blog.  Given that faking identity cards is crime in China (with a fine of $125 and 10 days’ detention) people obviously want to people to say what they like on the Internet quite badly.

Anyway, why are we interested in the story from a digital identity perspective?  Well, it transpires that the reason why kids can download software that will fake identity numbers is because identity numbers are 18-digit identifiers that contain digits for gender, birth place and birth date.  This is the key argument in favour of our favourite identifier, the “Meaningless But Unique Number”.  But we need something catchier than MBUN: any ideas?

My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public.
[posted with ecto]

1 comment

  1. It would be an interesting exercise to work out which identifiers need to be absolutely unique (and over what timeframe) and which can still provide a useful service with a certain number of potential collisions…

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