This Magazine

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SIN and the law

This Magazine Staff

The other day, I was on the phone with a Big Company purchasing a new computer (to play Half Life II, of course), and at one point during the transaction the salesman asked me for my social insurance number. I declined to give it, and consequently wasn’t eligible for one of their special payment plans.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about identity theft, and how there are something like five million “excess” SINs floating around, and how the government tells you to never disclose it to landlords and corporations and so on. But of course, many of us do disclose it, because we don’t want to lose that apartment, or because we can’t afford to pay the whole goddam cost of the computer in one easy swipe of the VISA card.
But here’s what I don’t get: Why is it legal to even ask? Why doesn’t the government simply make it an offence for anyone who isn’t legally entitled to the number to ask for it?
One day a few years ago, while trying to collect EI, I got sent to EI school, where we learned all about Understanding Today’s Job Market. We got a quick lecture on How To Make A Resume, blahblahblah, and then some long and extremely earnest spiel about how important our SIN is and that we should never disclose it to anyone, because it could be used for EI Fraud.
I put my hand up: “How come you don’t just make it illegal for non-government agents to ask for it?”
Federal EI representative: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Has it ever been discussed by Parliament?”
Federal EI representative: “I don’t know.”
Does anyone?

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