[Dave Birch] The Chinese have just finished building their national ID register.  The National Citizen Identity Information Center recently announced that after five years of work, all 1.3 billion Chinese citizens have been organized into a database.  According to Xinhua News Agency, the system will be accessible to "relevant agencies", but citizen’s privacy will be protected.  Much like the proposed UK national ID register, it will help prevent identity theft and related crime by giving citizens an identity number.  Apparently, though, it’s also been the cause of much identity theft, because Chinese Internet users need their ID card number to use Internet cafes, to sign up for online games and so on.  Hence, there has been a roaring trade in phoney ID numbers.

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This is about to change, though, because the Chinese register is being opened up to the general public.  Anyone can now send a text message or visit the population information center’s website, to check if the name and the ID number of a person’s identity card match. If they do match, then the ID cardholder’s picture also appears but no other information is available to ensure that the citizen’s privacy is protected (according to the Chinese government).  More interestingly, in my opinion, is the government’s other line of reasoning for giving public access to the register: it’s a means to correct mistakes if an individual discovers that their name, number and picture don’t match.

It’s going to be a lot harder to log in without being tracked now.  Of course, it could never happen here.

Meanwhile, what’s going to the kid who wants to play World of Warcraft?  In one region, Internet cafes have been banned completely, with the somewhat predictable (to anyone who has ever heard of the Xth amendment) results that the cafes have gone underground.  As Techdirt points out, while there are parents who are thrilled about this and say what a great thing it is that the cafes are banned, they’re all fooling themselves.  While government officials (and some parents quoted in the article) think the ban is helping to protect their children, it’s actually doing the opposite. The underground cafes are a lot less likely to pay heed to any other rules that make sure they’re safe — and the children get less (if any) instruction on how to use the internet constructively, rather than in a damaging manner.

As a pointless aside, I wonder what impact a system like this might have on the online dating and social networking industries?

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]

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