No, not sin, Social Insurance Number (s), that SIN.
If the Social Insurance Number was simply a number given out each time a Canadian asks for one, the Maximum number of encodings is simply 999,999,999 codes. That seems like a huge number, and why would anyone worry about running out of numbers in this program? The Social Insurance Number has become the de facto standard for identification in Canada. It is a number to be guarded closely, so each number is very important.
Some points to think about this number:
- I don’t think anyone has the Social Insurance Number 000 000 001 or anything like that encoding, so there aren’t as many numbers as we believe. Is the exact number of available SINs published anywhere? I don’t think it is, but maybe I missed out on that.
- From 1973 to 1994 the three digit prefix (the first three numbers) increased by about 265 (if I compare my SIN to my children’s SIN). That is not an insignificant increase. From 1994 to 2005 the prefix digits increased by 035. This assumes that the numbers are allocated in increasing order.
- There are no more plastic SIN Cards being made. You get a letter with your SIN and that is it!
- Given 900 SIN were lost with the Heartbleed bug, how many more digits are lost due to identity theft and such?
- Is there a recovery program for digits after someone dies? I don’t think so.
- Temporary SINs have 9 as the first digit, and depending on where you apply your leading digit will reflect that (see Wikipedia for this)
- There is a checksum to easily figure out if a SIN is real or bogus.
Am I just fear-mongering now? It’s possible, but I just wonder if we are going to hear in about 20 years that the Social Insurance Number will go from being a 9 digit number to either:
- A 9 digit hexadecimal number (base 16) (e.g. DEA DBE EF9 )
- A 12 digit regular number
Those would be simple fixes, except then every and any program that used the SIN for identification would need to be recoded. Can you say Y2K ? .