Aren’t NI numbers supposed to be private?
May 22, 2011

What is it in these times when we are all supposed to be protecting our personal data and watching out for “identity theft” with more and more authority figures asking for said data?

When I recently filled in one of my housing association landlord’s zillions of forms I left the part asking for my National Insurance number blank. The other day I got a voicemail from them saying I hadn’t filled in the form properly and they “need” my National Insurance number.

Someone I know also was asked to give their NI number to a *potential* employer (Tesco) and could not proceed with the job application until they filled it in.

At my last care review I was asked for it by Social Services. On asking why they needed it they said “It’s nothing to do with benefits. We just use it as a reference number”. Ummmm…are you incapable of creating your own referencing system?

Call me old fashioned, but I thought NI numbers were personal information and only needed by, and therefore only to be disclosed to, people dealing with tax, national insurance or benefits. The information from the directgove website agrees me:

“It’s very important you keep your number safe and don’t give it to anyone who does not need it. This will help prevent identity fraud…”

And Social Services and landlords are not listed as people needing it. Nor is using it as a reference number listed as a reason to use it.

Hopefully I can refuse to give it to my landlord without causing problems for myself. I figure that with personal data, the fewer people/places that have it the less chance of it being misused.