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I'm a UX Architect based in London working on a site for our office in Singapore that provides insurance products to customers. It has been suggested that we use a customer's NRIC as their username to log in to their account. I'm not sure if this is a common use of the NRIC in Singapore or if this would be unusual. I have been told that everyone knows their NRIC in Singapore, but that doesn't really answer my question.

The UK equivalent would be to use your NI number as a login, which is not something that we would do here.

If anyone either from or based in Singapore could let me know if it is standard to use your NRIC as a login username, that would be hugely helpful. Thank you.

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Its surprisingly common here simply cause its a fixed, immutable identification and is used for everything. The equivalent for that for non locals is a FIN. – Journeyman Geek Feb 12 at 15:33
Would this be the near-equivalent of using a Social Security Number in the US for login? At least here, any non-government website that asks for SSN would be suspicious to me. (Even thought banking and such sometimes require it) – hometoast Feb 12 at 17:51

hello from Singapore :)

Using NRIC to login is is more common in more government related internet services like taxes. Also it might be useful to note that almost 1/3 of the singapore population are foreigners. There's something called Singpass which is very common for signing into government services, which both foreigners and locals have.

For more commercial services like ecommerce or apps email login is most common and even facebook login.

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Hi, this made me a bit curious: " almost 1/3 of the singapore population are not foreigners". Does this mean 1/3 are locals and the remaining 2/3 of the population are foreigner? – Raiyan Feb 12 at 14:09
Thank you Ameen, that's really helpful. I agree with Raiyan though, are 2/3 of the population not from Singapore? Thanks again for your help. – Helen Feb 12 at 15:22
No idea about demographics but NRIC and SingPass are indeed used mostly on government sites - not elsewhere. – BoltClock Feb 12 at 15:33
Although I have heard similar stats conversationally (3/5 foreigners), Wikipedia says that only 43% of the population were foreign-born, some of whom are now citizens or have permanent residency rights. 61% of the population are citizens, and are considered Singaporeans. "The majority of Singaporeans today are descendants of immigrants that settled on the island when Singapore was founded ... in 1819." – joeytwiddle Feb 13 at 9:34
sorry for the typo. meant to say 1/3 ARE foreigners. – Ameen Akbar Feb 13 at 20:01

NRIC is probably not appropriate

  • It helps to understand what the NRIC is. The NRIC is a government-issued ID number, for the specific purpose of providing each Singapore citizen and permanent residents with a unique identity number for administrative purposes.

  • Because it is government issued and has a specific functional scope, it's commonly used for government or citizen related applications. For example, applying for a passport, paying taxes, accessing national healthcare, or registering a bank account.

  • While NRIC's are not "secret", they are personally identifiable by design so there is an expectation of privacy on the part of users if you decide to use NRIC. This is why most non-official applications do NOT use NRIC as a username. Users will hesitate when asked to enter their NRIC because they understand this makes them personally identifiable, and this is not usually behavior you want in an app.

  • Alternatives to the NRIC username:

    • If you want to use NRIC because you need to verify that users are actual persons (i.e. is this a human / is this a singapore citizen) you can still do that in an account page during the signup process without forcing the user to utilize their NRIC as their user handle.
    • If you want to use NRIC because users may forget their user name (e.g. rarely used app like car insurance), you can provide either (a) dual sign-in, i.e. users can sign in with either their NRIC or a user handle; or (b) username recovery via NRIC and/or email address.
  • Lastly, you should be aware of the Personal Data Protection Commission which establishes standards and guidelines for using personal data such as NRIC in Singapore. There is both a reasonable and a legal expectation of privacy for users when you ask them for their NRIC, so your app needs to provide the right disclosures and secure data the right way.

I have no idea what kind of app you're building, but these points should help you make the appropriate decision for your context.

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Thank you for the very informative answer Tohster. The site we are developing is indeed for an insurance company. The suggestion to use the NRIC is based on a) needing a unique identifier for each customer (particularly for existing customers who have not previously registered or no longer have access to an email address). And b) because customers are unlikely to be logging in regularly so will need a user ID that they can easily recall. – Helen Feb 18 at 10:37

May I ask if this site that you are developing is Singapore government related? As what Ameen pointed out, it is common for Singaporean to use their NRIC to log into governmental services sites, it ties in nicely.

However if you are planning to use this for an app with not relation to governmental services (or approved), then users be it Singaporean or not are very unlikely to divulge their NRIC number during sign up. To give away our NRIC number is somewhat similar to entering your bank account number in some less well known sites.

If you do intend to use Singapore NRIC as account number, then you have to take note of cases whereby user would enter their NRIC without the "S" when they log in. e.g for NRIC S1234567A, its common for Singaporeans to drop the "S" and enter as 1234567A.

Hope this gives you a bit more insight into how NRIC as log in credential works.

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Thanks for the info. No, it's not a government site. It is for an insurance company. Do you think customers would be uncomfortable entering their NRIC even as part of the registration process in this case? – Helen Feb 18 at 10:31

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