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National identification number

Paul-Emmanuel Bidault
Paul-Emmanuel Bidault
27 December 2023·5 minutes read time

The national identification number or national insurance number or JMBG/EMBG is used by the governments of many countries as a means of tracking their citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents for the purposes of work, taxation, government benefits, health care, and other governmentally-related functions.

The ways in which such a system is implemented vary among countries, but in most cases citizens are issued an identification number upon reaching legal age, or when they are born. Non-citizens may be issued such numbers when they enter the country, or when granted a temporary or permanent residence permit.

Many countries issued such numbers for a singular purpose, but over time, they become a de facto national identification number. For example, the United States developed its Social Security number (SSN) system

France's case: the NIR

In France, the national identification number is known as the numéro d’inscription au répertoire (NIR). It consists of 13 characters and a two-digit control key. The NIR, created from civil status data, is composed as follows:

  • Sex (1st digit)
  • Year of birth (the next 2 digits)
  • Month of birth (next 2 digits)
  • Place of birth (the next 5 digits or characters - 2 digits of the code for the département of birth, followed by the 3 digits of the official INSEE commune code)
  • Serial number used to distinguish people born in the same place at the same time (the next 3 digits).

Article 87 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not include it in the so-called sensitive data but allows national law to protect it.

Its use is very strictly regulated by the law known as "informatique et libertés ". The decree of 19 April 2019 defines the purposes for which it may be used so that it is neither systematic nor generalised. Thus, it has historically been confined to the medico-social sector, except in very exceptional cases.

It is used to manage health insurance reimbursements. It can therefore be used for this purpose in workplace accident declarations and sick leave notices.

It can also be used to make pre-recruitment declarations and nominative social declarations to URSAFF and Net-entreprises.fr.

Apart from these cases, it must not be used. This means that it cannot appear on an employment contract, for example, unless there is an express agreement to the contrary (e.g. for contracts signed with individual employers).

Finally, the social security number must be considered as sensitive data in the same way as health data. It must therefore be subject to special security measures. For example, storage must be secure and access restrictions must be implemented.

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