the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

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Identity and privacy

It's funny how different societies have different hot-button topics, and often they seem totally contradictory to each other. South Africans are touchy about all sorts of things given our past, but one thing which was in place before apartheid and never changed after was identity books and ID numbers. Credit card drivers' licences removed the schlep of having to carry a small book around with you, but nobody really resented the principle that for driving and all sorts of things, you had to be able to 'identify' yourself.

What's more, there's probably not a single business application in South Africa that doesn't associate human beings with an ID or passport number. Your ID number is who you are. No ID or passport number, no credit, no business, no job, no bank account, no health care, no gym membership, nothing.

In the UK, it's totally different. Companies don't ask for anything like an ID number, because there's no such thing. Name and proof of address, that's it. Brits seem to have a deep-seated distrust of being 'identified'. In the news today, is talk of ID cards for non-EU foreign nationals. I don't mind carrying an ID card, no biggie. Did it in South Africa all the time. There was mention that people will see this as a stealth step towards introducing ID cards for UK nationals. People aren't big on that.

Then on the other hand, you have Big Brother writ large in the trial of the failed suicide bombers from last year. The news showed footage of one of the bombers walking into a tube station, walking along the tracks, down the road, onto a bus, sitting on the bus, leaving the bus. They were able to go through CCTV footage and track this dude's every move.

That freaks me out a helluva lot more than having to carry a silly ID card.

{2007.01.26 - 23:39}


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