Hello, my name is 420724-7091 and Sweden's central data banks know everything about me
Allow me to introduce myself. I am 420724-7091. My wife is 480930-7343 and our seven-month-old baby daughter is 810130-0443. We live in Sweden, where our lives are numbered.
Of course, you would be far more interested in 451115-9305, 450425-4931, 461216-0038, and 500405-2444. I understand they've sold a lot of records in the states.
Why, during the las administration they even visited the White House on one of their tours. Except for 500405-2444, who was indisposed.
Everyone in Sweden has a Person Number. Of course we also have names just like you. My wife's in Lola, our daughter's, Nina Suzanne
And the numbers in the second paragraph refer to (in the order mentioned): Annifrid lyngstad, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Anderson, and Agnetha Faltskog, mem bers of the pop group Abba, one of Sweden's most successful exports.
The Person Number is allotted to you by the government as soon as you settle in Sweden. Even foreign correspondents staying for a limited time have one.
It is on your ID-card, your driver's license, tax declaration form, and all official documents relating to you.
The first part is your date of birth. I was born in (19)42, on July (07) the 24th. Hence: 420724. The number after the dash is chosen at random, except for the penultimate digit. If it is odd you are male; if it is even (including zero), female.
Sometimes the Person Number system can seem a trifle sinister. If you are stopped by the police, your number is fed via walkie-talkie into a computer at headquarters. Within minutes the cop on the beat will know all there is to know about you -- more specifically if you are on the wanted list or have previous convictions.
Sometimes it can make life easier, however. If you want credit, you give your person Number and within a remarkably short time informationis released from a central data bank which gives the company evidence of your creditworthiness (or lack of it). The data bank has to inform you about all such inquiries.
Swedes like the Person Number because it is efficient. They register amazement that anyone should find it Brave New World-ish. 480930-7343, for example, does not go around saying how glad she is to be a 480930-7343 but she is glad that it expedites the children's benefit that the state pays for 8101300443
There is a danger that it could all go too far, however.
The national social welfare board this month came up with a revolutionary scheme to lessen the burden of the welfare state by an estimated 4 million kronor (800,000).
This is the amount it loses each year because people mislay their false teeth.
The board is now calling for a law stimpulating that all sets of false teeth be stamped with the owner's Person Number so that when they are found they can be returned, avoiding the need to make a new set.
It is a very Swedish solution and it is as true as my number is 420724-7091 . . . even if it is little hard to swallo.