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The welfare state that wanted to keep track of its citizens : Personal identity numbers as administrative technology

Paulsson, Alexander LU (2016) In Modernizing the Public Sector: Scandinavian Perspectives p.80-95
Abstract

The development of the Swedish welfare state is often characterized by several comprehensive social reforms and organizational changes. In previous research, as in the previous chapters of this book, scholars often tend to direct their interest towards these reforms. Often left out are the tacit administrative technological infrastructures that enabled these. The Swedish social security number, the person number, is such a tacit technology. Unlike similar personal identity numbers in other countries, e.g. the Social Security number in the USA and the National Insurance number in the UK, which were designed for administering specific welfare reforms, the forerunner to the Swedish person number was introduced in 1947 as a uniform number... (More)

The development of the Swedish welfare state is often characterized by several comprehensive social reforms and organizational changes. In previous research, as in the previous chapters of this book, scholars often tend to direct their interest towards these reforms. Often left out are the tacit administrative technological infrastructures that enabled these. The Swedish social security number, the person number, is such a tacit technology. Unlike similar personal identity numbers in other countries, e.g. the Social Security number in the USA and the National Insurance number in the UK, which were designed for administering specific welfare reforms, the forerunner to the Swedish person number was introduced in 1947 as a uniform number for universal personal identification. With this administrative technology, the state could produce bureaucratic knowledge by collecting demographic data, finding debtors, controlling spending and crosschecking entitlements to welfare benefits. And, equipped with their unique identity number, each citizen could claim the newfound social rights to which she was entitled. While simplifying state-citizen communication, the person number also opened up the possibility for authorities to crosscheck individuals’ data in different registers. This sparked a heated debate in the early 1970s. To protect the personal integrity of the individual, the Data Protection Act (SFS 1973:289) came into force in 1973, making Sweden the first country in the world with such a legislative framework (Datainspektionen, 2016).

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publication status
published
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in
Modernizing the Public Sector: Scandinavian Perspectives
pages
16 pages
publisher
Routledge/ Taylor and Francis Group
external identifiers
  • scopus:85026231530
ISBN
9781138675940
9781317197928
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d61b62c5-0533-4512-95ab-7d531490a265
date added to LUP
2017-08-04 12:34:27
date last changed
2017-08-04 12:34:27
@inbook{d61b62c5-0533-4512-95ab-7d531490a265,
  abstract     = {<p>The development of the Swedish welfare state is often characterized by several comprehensive social reforms and organizational changes. In previous research, as in the previous chapters of this book, scholars often tend to direct their interest towards these reforms. Often left out are the tacit administrative technological infrastructures that enabled these. The Swedish social security number, the person number, is such a tacit technology. Unlike similar personal identity numbers in other countries, e.g. the Social Security number in the USA and the National Insurance number in the UK, which were designed for administering specific welfare reforms, the forerunner to the Swedish person number was introduced in 1947 as a uniform number for universal personal identification. With this administrative technology, the state could produce bureaucratic knowledge by collecting demographic data, finding debtors, controlling spending and crosschecking entitlements to welfare benefits. And, equipped with their unique identity number, each citizen could claim the newfound social rights to which she was entitled. While simplifying state-citizen communication, the person number also opened up the possibility for authorities to crosscheck individuals’ data in different registers. This sparked a heated debate in the early 1970s. To protect the personal integrity of the individual, the Data Protection Act (SFS 1973:289) came into force in 1973, making Sweden the first country in the world with such a legislative framework (Datainspektionen, 2016).</p>},
  author       = {Paulsson, Alexander},
  isbn         = {9781138675940},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {01},
  pages        = {80--95},
  publisher    = {Routledge/ Taylor and Francis Group},
  series       = {Modernizing the Public Sector: Scandinavian Perspectives},
  title        = {The welfare state that wanted to keep track of its citizens : Personal identity numbers as administrative technology},
  year         = {2016},
}