#CPR50: In New York, Denmark’s ‘historic’ CPR number celebrates 50 years with ground-breaking panel event series
Denmark’s personal registration number (CPR) took center stage last week amid the launch of a series of panel events marking the ten-digit number’s fiftieth birthday and aimed at addressing the complex conversation surrounding Big Data, tech and the future of democracy, the Consulate General of Denmark in New York has announced.
“Denmark is a country which has quietly compiled Big Data on its citizenry and used it to great effect for 50 years,” declared Consul General Anne Dorte Riggelsen as she opened the first panel event at the Residence of Denmark in New York on April 4th. “We have collected our citizenry’s personal information with trust and with the clear intention to strengthen our democratic system. That’s what CPR means to us.”
Launched on April 2nd, 1968 and built on the essential Danish values of trust in government and sense of community, Denmark’s CPR number has taken its place in Danish society as a benevolent social instrument benefitting both public and private sectors.
At the same time, the registration system’s comprehensive treasure trove of information on Danish citizens spanning name, gender, date of birth, place of birth, citizenship, identity of parents and continuously updated information on vital status, place of residence and spouses, makes it a unique example of how governments can use Big Data for positive ends.
The April 4th panel event — which included Denmark’s Tech Ambassador Casper Klynge, Professor Jan Mainz of the Aarhus University Hospital, and New America NYC Director Elana Broitman — touched upon a wide array of topics, from the recent Facebook data breach to the growing threat of hackers and greater need for cybersecurity. The conversation also hovered around the importance of cultural context as panellists and audience members highlighted the different viewpoints that Danes and Americans have towards government and the notion of government-controlled Big Data.
For his part, pointing to the medical value of such a complete population database, Professor Jan Mainz explained that the CPR number has transformed Denmark into one of the leading countries in the world for clinical trials, adding that the registry not only yields benefits to the public sector but also aides the private sector in developing life-saving medicines.
“Data from civil registration system is a unique and important research tool in research on social welfare, employment, education, and basically research in all areas related to the modern society,” Professor Mainz noted. “These data constitute an important and rare asset and, in connection with other registers and biobanks, continue to provide the basis for significant knowledge relevant to the aetiological understanding and possible prevention of human diseases.”
Against that backdrop, Ambassador Klynge drew a taut line between the historic creation of the CPR number and the ongoing debate about data and privacy emanating from the tech world. Companies like Facebook and Google, he added, were here to stay and had established a new normal which, in turn, demanded new diplomatic approaches.
“We need to interact with the tech world as we do with other countries,” continued Ambassador Klynge. “As a result, we need a different cultural approach to trust and the government. And we must also address the fundamental questions as to how we can get the tech industry to act responsibly.”
The next stop in the #CPR50 panel event series will be at Columbia University on April 24th when Denmark In NY partner New America NYC will coordinate an in-depth discussion about how citizens can ensure their personal data isn’t vulnerable to hacking and that their privacy rights are being upheld. The event series will also include a Talk at Google later in the year.