Tan Kin Lian: I consider the NRIC to be as public as my name

Photo: Facebook screengrab

Singapore – Businessman and social activist Tan Kin Lian gave his two-cents on the recent news about identity theft and the government’s endeavour in ensuring privacy by removing the collection of National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) as a safety measure in certain establishments starting September 2019. More on the latter here:

“Why not do it now?”— Netizens push for NRIC numbers to be kept private for cinemas, secure buildings

On January 22, Tuesday, the former CEO of NTUC Income and former candidate for the 2011 elections, wrote on his Facebook profile, a platform where he frequently airs out his views, about what he thinks about the NRIC being kept secret.

He wrote: There is a thinking that the NRIC should be kept secret. I never share this thinking. I consider the NRIC to be as public as my name. My NRIC is S1234567A. But I prefer you to address me by name, rather than by a number. I do not worry that other people may know my NRIC number. What can they do with it?

First off, he did not even use his real NRIC number which was quickly pinpointed by netizens.

Photo: Facebook screengrab

Second, if he considers this number to be public information much like his name, why did he not post his real one?

And lastly, it was risky of him to ask what others can do with private information because the advancements in technology have proven the great danger of identity theft.

In another platform called #HearMeOut where any person can provide feedback on any government or organizational policy, he made a more in-depth explanation of his views:

“Use of NRIC

There is a thinking that the NRIC should be kept secret. I never share this thinking. I consider the NRIC to be as public as my name.

My NRIC is S1234567A. But I prefer you to address me by name, rather than by a number.

I do not worry that other people may know my NRIC number. What can they do with it?

Yes, they can use it to log into the SingPass website and pretend to be me. Really? Do they know my password and my 2FA? It is not so easy to impersonate me.

Even if they are able to login with my SingPass, what can they do? Sure, they can apply for a new passport on my behalf. Or they can submit a false income tax return. Why would they want to do it? To create havoc?

Anyway, they should know that it is a crime to impersonate another person and steal his identity. He can be charged and if convicted, he can be sent to jail. Why take this risk?

I am therefore amazed that so many people in charge in Singapore consider that the NRIC should be kept secret.

Recently, the PDPA administrator asked businesses to avoid the use of the NRIC number to identify a person. This is counter-productive. It is regressive. It is stupidity.

It will incur a huge expense for businesses and a lot of inconvenience for the public. It serves no purpose.

There is concern that a hacker could use the NRIC number to access the medical, educational and financial records of a person. Is it so easy? They also need to be able to hacked into the database of the respective organization.

While it can be done, as was seen in the recent SingHealth breach, they got the personal records of 1.5 million patients anyway, without the need to use the NRIC number.

In the past, we use the NRIC number as the passport number. It was useful and convenient. Now, we give a different passport number on each renewal. The passport number no longer served as a means of identifying a person permanently. When the passport changes, that person gets a new identity.

The use of a unique NRIC number to identify a person was a big advantage passed down from our predecessors. The current people in charge wants to throw away this advantage. It is sad.

Tan Kin Lian”

Since he does not consider his NRIC to be private information, then Shen YGo went ahead and asked for his credit card number as well.

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