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Is mobile number India’s answer of having a Social Security number?

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Mobile SSN numbersThis story has caught my attention. IMIMobile (Hyderabad based) is collaborating with BPL Mobile to help Mumbai Police track drunk drivers. This would help in tracking the mobile database and check and see if the person is a repeat drunk driver or a fresh one. This would help them in recording new offenders and not letting the older ones slip.

India is suffering to come up with a comprehensive single point entry for identity. There are way too many things that serve as identity. There is nothing like a social security number though there are plans to introduce one. Drivers license, PAN card, Voters ID, Passport all serve as ID cards except that there is no way of tracking anything.

This new system which is being piloted in Mumbai might be the solution. This system is fraught with issues like any other system but this could solve many potential issues especially with tracking. The system makes an assumption that those who are driving can afford a cell phone. Conventional wisdom says that it is true. I am guessing that the number of mobile phones in India surpass that of PAN cards and voter Id’s. May be that is little far fetched but it could be true.

Mobile number could be India’s unofficial social security number. You can track the users shopping habits, drunken driving history, rental and credit history and many other things. Imagination is your only limit. Matrimonial sites can even tie up with this database to check the bride or groom to be, for his/her drunken driving history. That would be a little cruel :) but you get the idea. This would be like the pre-cogs in Minority Report.

Few caveats: If convicted of drunken driving the driver can change his mobile numbers. People usually hold multiple numbers. Also, people giving the wrong phone numbers would be a disservice to this otherwise useful system. This system unless tied up with the database of the service provider could not serve its purpose.

But the dangers of the database and the person maintaining could be catastrophic if compromised. It is a great power to have for any single person. This database in the hands of a single company or administrator can allow them to wield a great power.

Though government could not use this as an identity number, unofficially the private industry can use this. Your Pizza Hut maintains the database and when you call the second time he knows your address and what you have ordered earlier. Same is the case with any other industry. Drunken driving is just a logical extension. I am expecting many more to come.

What do you think this system can be extended to? What are the other dangerous things potentially can happen with an India wide system like this?

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