We need a unique identifier number

August 27th, 2012 at 6:52 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Severe deficiencies in the law are giving criminals “a simple means for identity theft” by making it easy to change their names, an investigation has revealed.

Former ombudsman Mel Smith uncovered the loopholes while investigating how convicted paedophile Te Rito Henry Miki was able to teach at six schools. …

The inquiry into the employment of Miki found he was easily able to steal the identity of a registered teacher friend, who emigrated to Australia in 2009, and to adopt his teacher registration.

Miki – who accumulated 53 separate aliases – subsequently applied to the office of the registrar-general to change his friend’s name to another identity.

Name change applicants only have to supply a statutory declaration, sworn before a court official, lawyer or justice of the peace – who needs only to ask if the contents are accurate. The applicant is not required to present verification of authentication or any other supporting documents to the registrar-general. …

The registrar-general is not required to inform the Passport Office, Customs or Immigration of a name change. If the relevant agencies had been notified, then when the friend first returned to New Zealand in September 2009 “the theft of identity would have become known and acted on at that time”, the report said.

Miki was arrested in February and was jailed for about four years.

Mr Smith said an average of 7375 people changed their name every year.

“Most of those, I’m sure, would be for perfectly proper and lawful reasons but . . . unfortunately New Zealand society is not as honest as it used to be.”

There was anecdotal evidence an official name change was available to people who wanted to get past the border “having legal obligations here, whether that’s child support, unpaid fines or even something much more serious”, he said.

I think there is a simple solution – like in the US. Every individual is assigned a unique identity number. Then you can change your name to whatever you like, but it will be linked to your UIN, which means pedophiles will not be able to get jobs in schools no matter what name they change to.

You’d need some privacy restrictions on which government agencies can access your UIN and identity for which reasons, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to allow the Government to accurately identify people for legitimate reasons.

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40 Responses to “We need a unique identifier number”

  1. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Getting rid of the privacy Act would be a much simpler solution.
    I cant think of one thing positive that the act has provided society. All its done is to formalise the ways people and companies can use private information, it has caused endless annoyance to families (ever tried to find out whats wrong with your adult children or even your wife if they were in taken to hospital in an emergency…) and it enabled organisations to assemble a lot of information on people on the basis that its going to be looked after securely.

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  2. MD (62 comments) says:

    He stole the identity of someone else. That’s how he was able to work in schools, really it had little to do with the name change, other than that may have helped him keep it covered up for longer. A National identity woudln’t have made any difference as he was using the otehr guys identity. Perhaps some simple information sharing, between say the DIA who are responsible for changes of name and the DIA who are responsible for issuing passports, you’d think they could probably achieve that without any law changes.

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  3. nasska (10,659 comments) says:

    We are entering very dangerous territory here DPF. Your proposal points out the potential good that could come from having all citizens uniquely identifiable but ignores the possible abuse by officialdom. This would be a wet dream for a government full of control freaks.

    We microchip dogs now……why not do the same to teachers & leave the rest of us out of it? To a man/woman they are socialist union hacks who want the state involved in anything & everything. The pedagogues would welcome the intrusion into their lives.

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  4. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    The merging of all the internal affairs departments is probably highlighting the siloed data stores govt. Has of citizen data. A single ID is not far away.

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  5. Griff (6,756 comments) says:

    666

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  6. wreck1080 (3,730 comments) says:

    I think it’s about time NZ grew up and accepted a single ID number.

    Sure , officials can abuse this — but, it is rogue officials who do so and the punishment for abuse needs to be severe.

    Generally those against an identity number are criminals , criminals who’ve not been caught and are a little nervous, and conspiracy theorists.

    Conspiracy theorists often over analyse and come up with worst case scenarios.

    I used to be against id numbers (conspiracy theorist basis). But, trying to explain my objections to a foreign friend sounded silly so changed my mind.

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  7. RRM (9,447 comments) says:

    We need a unique identifier number

    ***Obligatory reference to Big Brother, slippery slopes, and We Need Less Government Not More.

    (In before anyone else makes a reference to George Orwell :-P )

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  8. Andrei (2,500 comments) says:

    The mark of the Beast

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  9. southtop (262 comments) says:

    Not infallible in USA! Even the President has a social security number from a state that he has not lived in?

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  10. nasska (10,659 comments) says:

    RRM

    I was thinking more of Patrick McGoohan.

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  11. Matt (223 comments) says:

    Perhaps this “UIN” ought to be tattooed to our forearms?

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  12. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    But let’s not forget the consistent trail of incompetence by those charged with protecting our kids that the Miki case exposes. The first time he did it he thought he got lucky, the second, well what are the odds, eh by the time he had done it twenty times he must have come the opinion that NZ is a paedophile’s paradise, with the state providing unlimited access to fresh chicken. It was like putting a crocodile in a swimming pool.

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  13. eszett (2,334 comments) says:

    I am not sure how how a UIN would have helped in this case.
    Just what would have prevented Miki from obtaining his friend’s UIN and using it to steal his identity?
    Merely because he would have had to know the name and the UIN?

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  14. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    OH – and the other factor.

    In almost all cases of the child abusers there was someone who knew about the persons proclivity or had a strong suspicion of their activity – yet that didnt stop the activity.. Cant understand why.

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  15. kowtow (7,620 comments) says:

    “Severe deficiencies in the law are giving criminals…….”

    so instead of fixing the deficiencies we would create a massive bureaucracy which would cost tens of millions to set up and run?

    The USA have social security numbers and still have a massive id theft problem,so big that dates are discouraged from headstones! What a sad state of affairs.

    The problem is in modern valueless society. Crime ,of whatever type, now pays.Change that. That is the proper role of government. Progress and equality,pfft.

    Hammer the criminals not the law abiding majority.

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  16. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Well if you follow no other link, today, check this out: Mike Leigh:

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  17. tristanb (1,133 comments) says:

    I thought the SSN was just like our IRD number? Except they’ve gone and started using it for everything.

    Besides, in this case wouldn’t Miki have just stolen his mate’s ID number too? I mean, you use their name and DOB so what’s so hard about copying another number? (I can see this has been said already, but it’s so obvious it must be said again! :-D)

    And what is it with all these teachers being friends with molesters and toilet-stalking weirdos? They really need to be looked into.

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  18. flipper (3,556 comments) says:

    And in the US SSNs are purchasable like anything else.
    Welfare Benefit / Vets Allowances fraud is rife and driven by false SSNs.

    This sounds like another sledgehammer v nut “make work”: bureaucrat/IT company scam.

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  19. peterwn (3,157 comments) says:

    tristanb – WINZ issues ‘social security’ numbers but are pretty well confined to benefits administration. IRD numbers are effectively used for ‘money laundering’ controls since anyone with a bank account, owning shares etc pretty well needs to disclose it.

    It seems strange that a name change ‘deed poll’ is not referred to the passport section – it is all under Internal Affairs. It should also be referred to the authorities in the applicant’s birth country (perhaps with special exceptions).

    There is the ‘grey area’ of domestic air travel – the airlines seem to require photo ID but do not seem to strictly enforce it. All foreigners, tertiary students (assuming they have university etc photo ID) and drivers have photo ID leaving a minority with no photo ID. The driving licence system would probably form the most expedient basis for a national ID card system.

    Remaining issue is whether people are obliged to carry photo ID at all times as required in many countries eg Italy. Probably not.

    It is also feasible to data match driving licence and passport photos, but this does not appear to be done. It is accurate (Internal Affairs matched all passport photos a few years ago – this ‘undid’ David Garrett) except for identical twins.

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  20. Maaik (33 comments) says:

    The problem is that crims and kiddie fiddlers change their identities to hide their previous convictions. So, all we have to do is issue a prison number (if they don’t already exist) to all crims, and tattoo it on their body – the forehead will do nicely. Problem solved – if you employ someone with a number on their forehead, you simply TXT the number to a govt dept, and the record gets sent back to you. None of this confidentiality crap – criminal records should be public.

    Now if world peace was that simple, I’d have a Nobel.

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  21. maurieo (95 comments) says:

    This sounds reads like a plot from Coronation Street …

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  22. tristanb (1,133 comments) says:

    Sorry, I meant the US SSNs. I didn’t know we had them here already!

    The important thing is that if Te Rito Henry Miki was locked up for an appropriate length of time, then we wouldn’t have to worry about giving us all another number to remember and write on forms.

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  23. capitald (72 comments) says:

    I think there is a need for the collection of DNA / fingerprints when you are convicted of a serious sex offence. When a teacher applies for a new new, they should be required to provide fingerprints to be matched against the sex offence database.

    NSW has a “working with kids” check – it is actually an offence to apply for a job working with children if you are a sex offender in NSW.

    I suspect the teachers unions will have a problem with it – and they will have a point in so much as there will need to be some checks in place…. for example, once the DNA is matched against the database, those samples should be destroyed.

    It may be that the fingerprints are only checked against a serious crime database such as serious violent and sexual offences….

    Well worth exploring.

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  24. Chris2 (755 comments) says:

    We already have unique life-long numbers – two of them. One is our IRD number and the other is some Health department number, the name of which escapes me. The issue here is that we only get these when we need them, rather than at birth.

    But let’s get one thing straight. Miki’s new identity at each school would have been uncovered immediately if just one of those six schools had bothered to contacted the schools he claimed to have previously worked at. Also Miki claimed two fake degrees he did not have. Again none of the schools verified these, and neither did the Ministerial Enquiry make any reference in its report to these false qualifications, which is very sloppy of the Enquiry team, and reflects on their competence, too.

    Miki’s continued offending lies squarely with all the schools that employed him without doing any checks before hiring them.

    It’s crazy to try and blame the name changing Deed Poll process for this mess.

    I imagine the majority of people who change their names are non-english speaking immigrants with unpronounceable birth names who find it easier to adopt a western name in this country.

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  25. RRM (9,447 comments) says:

    Chris2 – you are making far too much sense there. Stop it! We’re trying to have a witch hunt :-P

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  26. Rick Rowling (801 comments) says:

    QR codes on foreheads!

    RFID chips implanted in necks!

    Problem solved.

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  27. iMP (2,244 comments) says:

    We could have it tattooed invisibly on our hand or forehead and call it the “Mark of the …”

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  28. iMP (2,244 comments) says:

    [Not that the Biblical Mark of the Beast is literal, its an apocalyptic metaphor for attitudinal and cultural subjection].

    And that just expanded this string out to 230 posts in 3,2,1…

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  29. Odakyu-sen (441 comments) says:

    Oh great! Criminals commit identify crimes, and someone suggests that the state punish all the people who didn’t do it.

    A nation of sheep will invariably end up with a government of wolves.

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  30. Rightandleft (636 comments) says:

    Nasska (7:18am),

    I know you’re being tongue in cheek, but I just want to say I’m a teacher and unionist who hates govt intrusion into private lives. In fact I’m the kind of libertarian who thinks seat belt and bike helmet laws should be done away with since they only protect us from ourselves.

    I come from the US and have a SSN and I can tell you the things are a nightmare. If you lose the SSN card it can be horrific trying to get a replacement and you can’t get a job without the card to prove you’re legal to work. The Social Security Administration is a bureaucracy that makes the Dept of Motor Vehicles seem sppedy and friendly by comparison. I was once told the wait to be seen to get my replacement card would be 3 to 5 hours!

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  31. KH (687 comments) says:

    I’m quite happy to have an ID number.

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  32. MT_Tinman (2,989 comments) says:

    I wonder how many of those opposing the introduction of an ID number have a “loyalty” card they swipe every time they make a purchase, happily providing those who want to know with details of how much they spend and on what, each week?

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  33. tas (593 comments) says:

    I definitely think NZ should have a national identification system. However, there are some pitfalls to be avoided:

    The SSN “system” in the US is deeply flawed. It was never intended to be a national identification number. It was only intended for the administration of social security (i.e. welfare). But it is now used everywhere, particularly for financial transactions. But, since SSNs are issued by the social security administration for social security purposes only, many people (particularly foreigners as they are not eligible for welfare) don’t have an SSN. This makes life very difficult, as things like opening a bank account, renting accommodation, or just getting a utility connection require a SSN. It took me a year to get a SSN, and I was glad when I did.

    Also, in the US your SSN is sensitive information because it can greatly aid identity theft. It’s kind of like your credit card details, you want to jealously guard it, but you have to give it away to everyone you do business with. The problem is that your SSN is almost accepted as ID and it shouldn’t be.

    So, if we adopt NINs in NZ, we should make sure that (i) they are easy for anyone to obtain and (ii) they are no more sensitive than your name.

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  34. Raphael (73 comments) says:

    Hmmm, in South Africa everyone has their ID number (assigned birth … includes birthday, sequence number, citizen/resident indicator, checksum). And you have to have your ID book to do anything. You ID book is a photo ID.

    That hasn’t stopped widespread identity theft…..

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  35. chrisw76 (83 comments) says:

    The obvious problem with the “one number” or unique identifier is that people start to assume (as they do with the SSN in the US), that it is far more secure that it actually can be. Criminals will always find a way to abuse the system and any other assumption is foolish. In fact there is a perverse problem with secure IDs; that the better they are perceived to be the more valuable it is for criminals to find a way to subvert them.

    I prefer our current system where we don’t have something that the lazy can rely on and the responsibility is clear on employers to actually check people’s references out and not just rely on one or two bits of information. 20 minutes on the phone talking to actual former employers would have prevented the most recent problems and I think that this will always be the best approach.

    Cheers, Chris W.

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  36. Scott (1,707 comments) says:

    Talk about big government! Perhaps we can have it stamped on our foreheads at birth? Perhaps we can be installed with tiny trackers on our bodies so our location can be known to the government at all times? Like have you ever read George Orwell? Man you are a crazy liberal at times. Big government, big solutions.

    What an instrument of control that could be to future governments. They could keep track of every person through the individual ID number. You really must think about your posts. I think you have been shocking lately.

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  37. nasska (10,659 comments) says:

    Good God! Whacky proposals do strange alliances form.

    On this subject I actually find myself agreeing with ‘Scott’.

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  38. Paulus (2,501 comments) says:

    Some years ago I was involved in running a Company short term and one day IRD rang and said they could not identify a person from the given number (so she could not get paid).
    I called her in and was told that that was the number she was using for this job – so I said no acceptable IRD number no pay.
    I got another number the following day for another named person, which she said was also her. She was paid under that name.
    In Porirua a friend from church was talking to his personal friend a Doctor when a person said hello to both of us. I said hello x and the Doctor said hello y simultaneously. I said that was x and the Doctor said no that’s y the name under which he treats this man’s family.
    Easy – use IRD and Medical Health number, with photograph, issued at birth and entry to New Zealand

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  39. Scott (1,707 comments) says:

    nasska- I know – very strange. But hey – good to find us in agreement. I look forward to seeing you in church on Sunday. God bless.

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  40. Tauhei Notts (1,607 comments) says:

    Paulus,
    The fact that somebody did not give their I.R.D. number or gave an incorrect IRD number to an employer does not prevent that worker from being paid. The employer merely deducts wages tax at the No Declaration rate.
    The No Declaration rate (about 46%) is now so high that people taxed at it almost always get things right.

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