Updated: Dec 24, 2022
With personal security still unresolved after a certain Australian-Singaporean telco allowed a hacker to ransom millions of customers' data, some of us are now finding trust a demanding issue to deal with.
'Don't worry - it's only your licence number that's been exposed, not the number of the actual card,' is the advice from both government and telco. It's hardly reassuring.
I mean, certain Australian government agencies might now be required to ask for a card number as well as a licence number, but most people in the world would be satisfied with only one crucial number, that of the licence itself, as has always been the norm. And as thousands of these numbers, along with other personal data, have been released on the 'dark web' to the world, the chances of them being used in financial transactions is very high.
I don't need to tell you that, I'm sure. But certain bodies with vested interests simply want to send out empty reassurances until the news cycle loses interest in the issue.
Following close on the heels of the pandemic, this further disruption to a smooth passage by many people through their daily lives, in having to keep several forms of identity within easy reach, is disturbing. Who am I? (With Sri Ramana Maharshi's* profound answer to this question put aside for the moment, I wonder sometimes.) The person I've always been but just a little older? Too easy.
Now I have to prove my identity - over and over again - using a name or pseudonym, a code or pin number or password, or phone number, or face recognition blank expression, or voice recognition in whatever pitch it was first recorded, or passport with non-smiling photo, or bank details, or a department store/supermarket card for an eventual discount, or an address including a postcode, and sometimes two former residential addresses. Oh, and what's the name of your next of kin in case of emergency, and the best number to contact them?
At times it's hard to tell the difference between my responses and those of a trained monkey.
But let's lighten the tone, since doom and gloom will shorten your life. Here are some responses from among Sydney School of Arts and Humanities' emerging writers to the command:
PROVE YOUR IDENTITY!
I've been married twice and there have been a number of issues arising out of the subsequent changes to my identity, although the problems actually started with my unfortunate maiden name. Getting picked on at school meant I couldn't wait to grow up, get married, and be someone else.
My first husband had a surname that I really liked and was happy to adopt. To his annoyance I kept it when we split, despite him asking me not to. All I can say in my defence is that I'd found he was a bad husband.
During my current marriage I have used my husband's surname, Coward, for various suburban entities and accounts, but I've kept my important documents in husband number one's name. I will admit here that there has been a certain laziness attached to this decision.
I have had many issues arise because of my different identities over the years. I often forget who I am, which doesn't go down well. In today's world anyone unsure of their surname is definitely going to attract attention.
The most heart-stopping problem I've had was when a friend of mine booked overseas flights for me and I didn't check the documentation until four days before we flew out. My friend and I had known each other for years but obviously we'd never had a conversation about my various surnames. She'd just assumed I used my current husband's name, as you would, given we'd been married over twenty years by that stage. After many discussions with many people at the airline I managed to have my booking changed. An old identity card where I'd used my current husband's surname, and a photo looking vaguely like a version of my passport photo, retrieved the situation.
When I came home, I quickly changed more local accounts and memberships into my favourite surname. Luckily, my husband no longer cares about these things. He's a lot older and has a medical issue to dwell on, so my public identity is the least of his concerns.
I look back to when I first married and sometimes think it would have been easier to stick with my maiden name. Identity has become a daily issue and a huge problem. If I had known what I know now I would have treated the whole thing differently. Then again, I'm probably more aware of identity issues than many other people, so that's got to be a good thing.
PROVE YOUR IDENTITY!
‘Is it him?’ Claudia asked Elise, who was studying her mobile phone from under her straight black fringe as they sat opposite each other at a table in a Surry Hills cafe.
‘I don't know. Maybe. His hair looks different, and he was wearing a black tee shirt. The guy in this profile photo is dressed in a business suit.’
‘Coffee's up, Claudia!’ The bald-headed and bearded barista shouted as he slammed two espressos on the counter with enough force to make the teaspoons rattle.
Claudia leaned forward.
‘Didn’t he text you his number?’
‘No, but that may be my fault. My phone battery went flat, and the music was so loud in the club it was nearly impossible to talk. He may have got my number wrong.’
‘But didn't you see what he looked like?’
‘Sort of. The booth we were in was really dark, it was late, and I had lost one of my contact lenses. I guess I was pretty smashed. I tried to write his name down on the back of a beer coaster with my eyeliner pencil, but it got saturated and ripped in half, so all I know is his name is Rhys, and he works at Westpac. There are eight employees by that name on LinkedIn, and he's the closest match.’
Elise put the phone down and buried her head in her hands.
‘So, I messaged this guy on LinkedIn and asked to meet up, and he said yes!’
Claudia leaned across the table, gripped Elise by the wrists, pried her hands from her face and made eye contact.
‘What's the big deal with this guy?’
‘I kissed him.’
‘And it was amazing.’
‘So, meet up.’
‘But how will I know it's him?’
‘Well, if he seems okay when you meet him, say, “Before we go anywhere, you’ll have to prove your identity.”’
* Sri Ramana Maharshi, considered a guru saint in South India, wrote his explanation of the question 'Who Am I?' in the sand for a devotee in 1902 and later turned his simple words into an essay, which was published in 1923 and republished in 2016.
Copyright: text c v williams; Janet Cadet; Robert Carrick; photos Wix and Wiki.