Authorities should take greater pains to protect data privacy

I refer to the joint response by the Ministry of Law, the Supreme Court of Singapore and the National Library Board (Necessary to publish IC numbers of individuals sometimes; Dec 5).

Specifically, I make reference to the statement which states that the Official Assignee must publish the NRIC of an individual in advertisements in connection with bankruptcy procedures as governed by the Bankruptcy Act.

The reason given was that it is necessary to eliminate the possibility of unrelated individuals sharing the same name, as a case of mistaken identity could improperly and adversely affect people.

United States court documents routinely use the last four digits of an individual's social security number, which is on a par in terms of legal importance with our NRIC number, to identify a specific individual.

This is in a nation with more than 300 million citizens and residents, where name collisions are far more common.

If we are truly serious about privacy, surely this is an easy solution.

A simple search against our national database of people who have the same names and last four digits in their NRIC numbers - something I am certain that we will be able to do in less than an afternoon if all records of living individuals are digital - would reveal if this could work.

Chern Ann Ng