Today I read a chronicle in the Swedish newspaper SVD with the title “I am so tired of the naive Swedes”.
The author write that after spending the summer in Sweden she learned about the new focus in Sweden on membership groups. Everywhere she got the question if she is a member or not. From the candy store to the book store, everybody has a membership to offer.
To become a member you usually have to give the store your e-mail address and your social security number. This is the scary part in Sweden, how often you need to provide your so personal and private social security number.
The author of the chronicle is reluctant to give her number as she has experience regarding how similar information is handled in other countries. Most other countries handle such information with more care and usually does not require the person to provide it for such a simple thing as getting 20% discount on a book.
This is where the Swedes are naive. If you tell someone you don’t feel comfortable about providing your social security number they usually will reply something like; “So strange, for me it is no big deal to do it since I have nothing to hide.”
It is not about having something to hide, it is about having the right to keep certain things private. Imagine having a government who is not so interested in the personal integrity. Or just imagine a similiar crisis to the one that actually occured at The Swedish Transport Administration where lots of personal information was handled incorrectly.
As someone who has had his social security number stolen and misused by others I am very reluctant to give out my information, not because I have something to hide but more because I know what hell will break lose if something as important as your social security number gets in the hands of bad people.