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Identity is arguably a person’s most valuable possession. It incorporates one’s reputation and achievements, both of which are hard-earned assets. A “clean” identity can also provide criminals and terrorists with a cloak of anonymity. Consequently, a stolen identity can have enormous value to anyone with a poor reputation, limited achievements or criminal intent.

But what exactly is “identity”? The answer depends on the perspective.

From the first-hand perspective (the perspective of those with a strong personal connection) identity can be known with certainty. To have comprehensive first-hand knowledge of an individual is to know their intrinsic identity. This can include aspects like their relationships, their experiences and even their mindset. Because it is a relatively complete picture of an individual, it can only relate to one specific person.

From the perspective of a third-party (those without personal knowledge) identity cannot be known with certainty. Because we all need to deal with people who don’t know us personally, societies have developed a sort of “shorthand” for identity which can take many forms – usually a simple document or record. These serve as a surrogate identity for the individual they represent.

However, a surrogate identity offers a very restricted view of a small selection of information – name, date of birth, address. It is also prone to error and misuse, and the information may or may not even link to the intended person. A surrogate identity will always carry some degree of uncertainty.

It may be easier to think of the difference between intrinsic identity and surrogate identity using an analogy:

Coca-Cola is a name that represents a specific product. But what makes that product unique is mainly its secret recipe. The brand name Coca-Cola is a surrogate identity for a product with a specific combination of ingredients. Few people know the intrinsic identity of the beverage – i.e. the ingredients, mixing ratios, manufacturing process etc. For convenience, most people rely on its surrogate identity (the brand name) alone, since they don’t need to know all aspects of the product.

The same is true for people. Those who don’t know us personally will rely on our surrogate identity to distinguish us. They don’t need to know all of our personal details. They simply need to be able to differentiate us from others.

Intrinsic IdentitySurrogate Identity
A collection of personal information that can only relate to one unique individual including:Information compiled by a third party purporting to relate to one individual, such as:
Immutable Factors"Official" Documents
Personal attributes which can't be changed including:
-DNA profile
-Iris pattern
-Retina pattern
-Blood type
Records and documents created by a government body including:
-Driver's licence
-Permanent Resident card
-Identity card (Federal)
-Native Status card
-Nexus card
-Identification card (Provincial)
-Firearms Possession & Aquisition Licence
-Birth certificate
-Healthcare card
-Social Insurance card
-Citizenship card
-Canadian record of landing
-Naturalization certificate
-Study, Work, Visitor, or Temporary Resident Permit
-Parole Certificate ID
-Correctional Service Conditional Release Card
Objective Factors

Facts (not mere opinions) applicable to an individual including:

-Birth details such as place, date, time
-Race / ethnicity
-Relatives including ancestors, parents, siblings, children
-Experiences including schooling, travels, residences, jobs
-Health including medical issues, eyesight, surgeries, genetic conditions, hospitalizations, dental work
Institutional Records

Records and documents created by a non-governmental entity including:

-Bank card
-Credit card
-Employee ID card
-School ID card
-Baptismal Certificate

Various "relationships" including:

-Animate: spouse / partner, friends, neighbors, colleagues, associates, pets
-Inanimate: Corporations, real property, chattels
-Geopolitical: town, city, province, prefecture, state, nation, continent.
Database Records

Information typically stored on a computer server including:

-Tax data
-Social insurance records
-Citizenship and immigration records
-Voter information
-Judicial / criminal record
-Health and pharmaceutical records
-Financial account details

Recognition by others including:

-Achievements: educational (degrees, diplomas, certificates), sporting
(trophies, medals, records),
vocational (professional registration,
trade certification), practical (driving licence, musical skill, linguistic ability)

-Esteem: peer, profession, industry
or judicial recognition of expertise
-Acceptance: member of a band,
nation, organization, religious sect, institution, team, club
-Assessment: perceived traits (industriousness, punctuality,
intelligence, sociability),
psychological / personality /
emotional attributes or disorders
"Remote" Assessment

Determinations made without first-hand knowledge of an individual, including:

-Border pre-clearance eligibility (NEXUS/FASTlane)
-Government entitlements
Subjective Factors

Personal "mindset" including:

-Views: political leaning, spirituality, causes, opinions
-Choices: hobbies, recreational activities, religious belief / affiliation
-Outlook: ambition, vision, hopes, dreams, plans, fears, phobias.

Judgment based on rumor, opinion or supposition including:

-Threat level (no-fly listing, national security assessment)
-Flight risk
-re-offender rating
Transient or Temporal Factors

Personal matters subject to self control including:

-Signature / handwriting
-Appellations: name, former/maiden name,
-Publications, artistic creations
-Created passwords
-Contact information including: residential address, email address, telephone number
-Physical attributes including: appearance, weight, hair color, skin color, tattoos
-Conjugal details including: marital status, spouse / common law partner
-Social participation: social connections/groups, friends, neighbors, memberships, civic activities
On-Line Information

Unverified internet-based information including sites such as:


Note that in the above table, personal information is listed in descending order of reliability.

If you have an identity problem of any kind, contact Pappin Law to discuss how we can help resolve your issue.

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