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Identity and Identification in Brazil (continued)

January 23, 2009

I spent a little while over the last couple of days examining the actual material identity documents currently required in Brazil. Here are some pictures with a little explanation. There will be a lot more in the final article!

The first is the simplest but in many ways the most important to life-chances. This is the Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas (CPF) (Register of Physical (or Natural) Persons) card (or Taxpayer’s Card).

CPF

‘Pessoas Físicas’ is a a piece of legalese that is draws a distinction between humans and other ‘legal persons’, like corporations or governments. The CPF number is issued to all those who pay tax and is essential if one wants any formal work. The actual document is a blue plastic card like old-style credit cards, which also has a machine readable magnetic strip on the back.

The number is also required for many other government transactions, and it is, apparently a major disaster if you lose the card, or if for some reason, your CPF number is rescinded (which can happen if you don’t pay tax in Brazil for more than a year, for example if you are abroad, without explanation). Many people who live in the favelas, and who are involved in the shadow economy do not have a CPF, which is a severe obstacle to social inclusion.

The second document is the Registro Geral (General Registry) (ID) card, a double-sided piece of thick paper, just larger than a credit card. It is oriented vertically at the front and horizontally at the back.

RG card

As I noted in the first post I made on this subject, the RG card cross-references the CPF and also birth certification (it lists the full names of both mother and father and city and state of origin). This card is the one that is being replaced by the new RIC smartcard ID system.

Finally, we have the Carteira Nacional de Habilitação, the driving licence which, despite its name, is issued at state rather than national-level. The colour and format differs from state-to-state, however they all have pretty much the same level of information (a lot!) and cross-identification with other forms of ID. This one is from Paraná, which is a paper usually folded in half horizontally. It is specifically forbidden to laminate it.

RNDH

The Brazilian driving licence is a goldmine of personal information. Partly this is because the licence had been intended to be a unifying piece of identification (a practice typical of ‘autocentric’ cultures!), containing all the information on both the CPF card and the RG card, and more. This will now not be the case following the issuing of the new RIC cards, so it will be interesting to see if the quantity of information on these licences will be reduced or, if not, what the justification will be for having this much visible personal information on one paper document.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2009 10:20 pm

    There are similar problems in Argentina, with their Documento Nacional de Identidad (DNI). I interviewed Eduardo Thill, the Director of Informatics Management at the Ministry of the Interior, about their system and its shortcomings in late 2007. Would be happy to share the interview audio, if you want. It’s on a cassette tape here in London.

    Looking forward to reading the article. Looks like fascinating research!

  2. David permalink
    January 24, 2009 1:07 am

    That would be great Aaron – I’ll come knocking when I get back sometime!

  3. Ricardo permalink
    November 1, 2010 4:47 pm

    In the 2008 Brazilian ID card, there is a wrong note: “Expiry Date”. It should be “Issued date”.

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