föstudagur, október 14, 2005

the all-knowing number

I have written a few times previously about the kennitala system in Iceland. The kennitala is a national ID number, but it's (almost) completely public. Anyone's full name, kennitala, and address are available on the web to anyone holding an Icelandic bank account. This was initially very spooky to me as an American, but as this new article points out, the openness of the system is perhaps its greatest strength.


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

1. kennitölur - plural?? sweet.

2. She had me right up until the dread "PIN Number" violation.

3. Why should my home address be in the "public sphere" of data?

That all said - some good points. But there is a problem with how do I prove that I'm the JDK who goes by 054-92-4298 and lives at 923 Mass Ave? I think we need to GATACA it all and link in my DNA baby!

Blogger JB said...

1. The plural of many feminine nouns ends in "-ur" so then you get a vowel-shift on the a's in the earlier parts of the word. They become ö's, just as a matter of phonetic laziness. It's just easier to say that way. Icelandic is full of these vowel-shifts, and it makes for a fun time, both spoken and in print.

2. That's unexcusable, I agree. I guess he didn't do so well on the SAT Test, either.

3. Good point. I'm not sure if that's necessary. But it is convenient, as businesses that have you listed in their own database by kennitala then automatically get the correct address for you when you move (they get a periodic update of all kennitölur from the national registry). This makes it easier to, say, send a bill to the person's new address.

And, you still have photo IDs to prove who you are, if need be. My Icelandic driver's license also has my kennitala on it, as well as a terrible picture of me in a lopapeysa. If anyone wants proof, there it is.

I'd be for the GATTACA solution if I could dress like those dudes. They had some fine threads in that flick.


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