Did They Put a Man on the Moon?

Recently I have been reading some blog posts circling around having a national ID for citizens in the United States including a post from Steve Sarsfield and another post from Jeffrey Huth of Initiate.

In Denmark where I live we have had such a national ID for about half a century. So if you are a vendor with a great solution for data matching and master data management in healthcare and wants to approach a Danish prospect in healthcare (which are mainly public sector here), they will tell you, that the solutions looks really nice, but they don’t have that problem. You can’t stay many seconds as a patient in a Danish hospital before you are asked to provide your national ID. And if you came in inside your mother you will be given an ID for life within seconds after you are born.

The same national ID is the basis when we have elections. Some weeks before the authorities will push the button and every person with the right status and age gets a ballot. Therefore we are in disbelief when we every fourth year are following when United States elects a president and we learn about all the mess in voter registration.

Is that happening in the nation that put a man on the moon in 1969?. Or did they? Was it after all a studio recording?

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12 thoughts on “Did They Put a Man on the Moon?

  1. Jim Harris 13th July 2010 / 14:59

    Ground Control to Major Henrik,

    Yes, the United States did, in fact, put a man on the moon in 1969. However, we did have to make the video highlight reel look more impressive by using a studio recording 🙂

    I think that the admirable National ID program for citizens in Denmark versus the United States “melting pot” of citizen identification “programs” is a fair criticism.

    However, a fair comparison would be what if the European Union wanted to institute an European ID and eliminate the National IDs of Denmark and other European nations? Write a blog post about how soon you would have that program in place.


    Good-natured humor aside, I think this is a good analogy for why Data Governance and Master Data Management is so difficult for large organizations.

    The smaller the organization, the easier these programs are to implement (and for very small organizations, they probably would be completely unnecessary).

    Rapid business growth can cause an small organization to become a victim of its own success. Significant collateral damage can be caused by this success, and most notably to the organization’s burgeoning information architecture.

    Earlier in an organization’s history, it usually has fewer systems and easily manageable volumes of data, thereby making managing data quality and effectively delivering the critical information required to make informed business decisions everyday, a relatively easy task where technology can serve business needs well—especially when the business and its needs are small.

    However, as the organization grows, it trades effectiveness for efficiency, prioritizing short-term tactics over long-term strategy, and by seeing power in the hoarding of data, not in the sharing of information, the organization chooses business unit autonomy over enterprise-wide collaboration—and without this collaboration, successful enterprise information management is impossible.

    Data silos are fine the organization is small enough to have only one data silo.

    National IDs are easy to implement when you have a national population that is both relatively small (less than 6 million people live in Denmark) and relatively homogeneous (90% of the people who live in Denmark are Danish).


    Best Regards,


  2. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 13th July 2010 / 15:17

    Thanks Jim. I totally agree with your comparison with small and large organisations and I indeed share the horror vision of implementing a European Union citizen ID. Just imagine metadata in +20 languages, the French insisting on an official French name for the project, the British demanding special rules for them and the pitable Germans will probably be going to pay it all.

    So given similar terms: Kudos to the project in India called Aadhar.

    • Rahul Sharma 29th December 2010 / 07:01

      Hey Henrik,
      Great analogy to describe on nation ID I am from India and Aadhaar project is initiated by government of India. I heard about taking biometric details at the time of issuing Unique Id. Not sure about what all elements will play role to uniquely identify a citizen (where population is more than 1.2 Billion).

      Success of Indian Unique Id project will help citizen of India and government of India. But the success of Aadhaar depends on giving Unique Id uniquely and here is need of data management solution.

      And yes India is much diversified in terms of culture, religion and yes language. Here we have 16 official languages. So let’s see. Waiting to get my own Unique Id, will share that experience also.

  3. Graham Rhind 13th July 2010 / 15:17


    You write a lot about the national ID system in Denmark, and my feeling is always one of disbelief that having such a deep rooted ID system does not create any discomfort to you or other Danes – I find it hard to believe that there is no danger to civil liberties in having such a system.

    I have an ID number given to me at birth in the UK, but for privacy reasons its use it severely restricted, and I am happy that that is the case. Equally, here in The Netherlands we all have an ID too (actually, I have two – an example of the system going wrong), but again its use is limited. I would object strenuously to my ID number being used in many data systems, because it opens up the potential for access to information that should be kept well protected, such as tax returns and personal registration information.

    I don’t think that it’s having a system that aids data quality (after all, US citizens have social security numbers), but it’s how it is used and managed.

    Don’t errors creep into the Danish system, and because of the confidence you (plural) have in that system, aren’t errors a nightmare to correct? In my case, I was given a Dutch ID when I lived here between 1984 and 1989, after which time I moved to Belgium. When I moved back in 1995, I was mistakenly given a new number instead of the old one back. Due to this very simply error, the Dutch state has lost all information about my 1984-9 stay, and cannot link my existence back to very important aspects such as my pension. Equally, because errors are not expected, they have no way to correcting them – though my name is unique in this country, they can’t search in their system for it to correct the error – they need the number, which nobody has any more.

    So, I don’t share your confidence in ID systems – the system is one thing, managing it quite another.

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 13th July 2010 / 16:13

      Thanks for the comment Graham. I write about it not because I like it as a citizen but from a pure data quality / MDM point of view. The fact is that I know I am not going to sell many big fuzzy data matching / address correction solutions to public sector bodies or financial services organisations in Denmark or in fact all of Scandinavia as Norway and Sweden has similar administration practice. The Swedish practice is even more liberal as it is not uncommon that a Swedish webshop ask you to provide your national ID (personnummer). Then they don’t have to bother about name and address formats and so on.

      I agree about the importance of managing such systems and have processes for correcting errors. I have seen that a subscription to the Danish system includes documentation on a transaction saying: Duplicate ID has been made obsolete, new active ID is this. From gazing data in such transactions I guess it is used mainly related to repeated immigration.

  4. Dylan Jones 13th July 2010 / 15:29

    Having been on the wrong side of my own personal national ID fiasco (see: http://bit.ly/91IhGb) I can only agree that it’s high time we implemented this in the UK but given the lengthy and ongoing dramas surrounding even modest national system introductions I don’t expect it to happen in my lifetime.

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 13th July 2010 / 16:18

      Thanks for the comment Dylan. Yes, many public IT projects are scams today.

  5. Monis Iqbal 13th July 2010 / 15:33

    I have another analogy of the National ID system: OpenID (http://openid.net/) and the OAuth protocol used over the internet to share user’s data with 3rd party apps. Even the OpenID page mentions US govt. collaboration to fit the analogy 🙂

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 13th July 2010 / 16:22

      Thanks Monis. Yes, OpenID is another trail in identity resolution.

  6. Crysta Anderson 13th July 2010 / 21:25

    Great points by all above. From my perspective, in addition to the privacy issues and the sheer scale of the multiple languages/character sets, the problem is complicated in two ways: when you’re trying to aggregate data from a private database, and when people try to evade proper identification.

    The problem Jeff Huth writes about in his post relates to cybersecurity. We’ve talked in these forums about how many different identities you can accumulate online. National ID or not, I have two different WordPress IDs, three different Twitter IDs, an Amazon.com reviewer ID, a Facebook ID, and more. A national ID can’t overcome these privately held/controlled databases – the privacy issues would become especially alarming if Amazon or Twitter required my national ID for registration!

    The second big challenge is when “bad guys” try to evade detection by creating aliases using false birthdates, addresses, etc, potentially even a false national ID if that was the case.

    I’m anxious to see how Aadhar works out once it gets some traction.

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 13th July 2010 / 21:58

      Thanks Chrysta. The connection between identity in cyberspace and public sector controlled national ID’s is indeed a timely subject. As Jeffrey wrote: “How can the distinct and unique views of Joe Citizen to the government be treated in the identity ecosystem?”.

      In Denmark the authorities and the banks has just released an ID system (based on the national ID) for interacting with the public sector and financial services via the internet. Some info in English here.

      I agree, the privacy issues would become especially alarming if Twitter required my national ID for registration!

  7. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 10th September 2010 / 09:39

    I tweeted this post again in comment to a case raised by Karen Lopez aka @datachick on twitter. The story is about a man being registered as deceased at Chase Bank and then here and there as told here.

    A national ID will naturally be combined with that there is a single source holding the digital truth about whether the person referenced by that national ID is dead or alive.

    Certainly flaws may be introduced in such a solution:
    • The single source may wrongly state that the person is deceased. In that case the consequences are huge, but also the time spend on correcting will therefore be short.
    • A subscriber to the source may not be updating correct or in time. In that case the consequences will only affect that subscriber and not be cascaded to others as in the Chase Bank case.

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