Your average Joe Wageslave in the World of Swan Song doesn’t give a second thought to their identity in the system. They get up in the morning, go to work, buy the groceries, pay the bills, and go to bed in their living space. They don’t think about who knows who they are, how much their employer controls them, who those bill payments are going to, how their commlink knows what groceries they need this week, and who knows where they live. Yes, Joe Wageslave is pretty oblivious to the system that surrounds everything they do. But anyone who chooses to live off the grid (like Crossers) are all too aware of how the system of identity works.
System Identification Number
The foundation of every identity in Swan Song is the System Identification Number (SIN). If someone wanted to divide the world into two groups of people, it could be done by saying there are those who have a SIN and those who don’t. That is, if you even consider the SINless to be “people,” which some don’t. Modern society in produces a staggering amount of information every second of every day: where you are, what you buy, and what you do. With the system producing all of these pieces of information, there needs to be an easy way to store, track, and correlate it. All of that information needs to be associated with a person somehow. That’s where the SIN comes in. A SIN is issued to a person a birth, and stays with them (baring exceptional circumstances) for the rest of their life. A SIN identifies a person in the global information system and is attached to every piece of information associated with them in the Matrix. No aspect of modern or legal life can function without a SIN. Those who don’t have one can’t get a job, can’t buy food, can’t even walk down the street. To the system, these people don’t exist.
Issuing a SIN
A SIN is issued either by a planetary goverment or megacorporation(AA or AAA rating) at the time a person becomes a citizen. This is generally when a person is born “legally” on that planet somewhere—a hospital, clinic, or maybe even at home with the assistance of a Renkaru DulaDroneTM. A new SIN will be issued in the case of a change in citizenship. Not everyone has a SIN: in fact, lots of people are SINless. Born outside the system, or rejected by it, they are semi-citizens, granted only the barest of human rights. They are unable to legally hold a bank account, work, or even be in the nicer public spaces that mandate that your SIN is broadcast from your commlink at all times. So if you don’t have a real SIN, getting a fake one makes your life a lot easier... if only so you can buy burritos from the corner bodega.
What is a SIN
The SIN itself is a very long hexadecimal string of characters generated using some of the person’s vital statistics fed into an incredibly complicated mathematical algorithm. This guarantees that no two SINs will ever be the same. It serves as a social security number, passport number, citizenship number, and tax reference code, all rolled into one.
In theory, every SIN follows this basic structure: AAAA-BBBBBBBB-CCCC-DDDD-EEEE-FFFFFFFFFFFF-GGGGGGGG-HHHH-IIIIIIIIIIII-00000000
- Where the first block (A) stores the issuing Authority and the planet on which the SIN was first registered.
- The second block (B) consists of parity data that is used to valid the rest of the SIN.
- The following blocks (C-E) contain basic encrypted data for biographic Information, that can be read by many scanners.
- The next blocks (F-I) contain the algorithmic generated Identification-Data that truly makes every SIN unique. It is incredibly hard to convincingly fake for anyone but SIN specialists. This part, when checked against the party block (B) is it that often gives Fake SINs away even before checking against any registers, if they are made poorly.
- The last block contains a registration key that is used for database optimization.
A set of biometric data including DNA, retinal scan, and fingerprints will also be taken and logged into the system, associated with the newly created SIN. All of this information is then registered with two master databases:
- one maintained by the planet or corporation that issued the SIN
- the Galactic SIN Registry (GSINR) controlled and maintained by Renkaru
These datastores are among the most secure in the universe, with multiple off-line backups for each. Everything you do - everywhere you go, every Matrix host you visit, everything you watch or buy, everyone you so much as spend time near - accumulates tracking information, stored against your SIN, in a dizzying array of tens of thousands of tracking databases run by almost every corp on earth. Most of the time, this is used for advertising. When an AR billboard wants to show you an ad, it’ll have a contract with some subset of the trackers, and it’ll use that to datamine your interests and show you your favourite flavor of NERPS.
Carrying a SIN
One thing that make SINs incredibly hard to bypass is the fact, that not only are you required to have your commlink broadcast your SIN, when you enter many public places in the meatspace, but without a SIN it is also impossible to connect to the Matrix (only the most powerful and skilled Technomancers can bypass this restriction). But the most severe fact is the one, that legally registered indiividuals get a SIN-Tag injected into their body (usually into their head), which can be detected and scanned by (high rating) external devices. Normally it is only possible to detect a broadcasted SIN and even your own commlink needs to link to your SIN-Tag with a lengthy authentication procedure to broadcast your SIN. SIN-Tags are usually specialized and more secure Security Tags (see General Gear, Electronics, RFID Tags). So to fake your SIN, not only do you need someone to create you a convincing SIN and register it to the authorities, but you also have to have it either implanted into your body in addition to your real SIN (if you have one at all), hoping no scanner detects the existence of more than one SIN-Chip in your body, or more often, overwrite the SIN on your SIN-Chip with the new Data. For Crossers that quickly need to get rid of burned SINs, there exist so called "SIN-Cleaner" tools, taht wipe all Data from your SIN-Chip, which leaves you with no valid SIN, but also with no evidence of whatever caused your SIN to get burned. Most of these cleaners only work on SIN-Chips that are connected to your commlink though. Also if you have the actual SIN-Number stored anywhere (like your commlink) you can always play it back onto your SIN-Chip at a later point in time.
Note that your SIN is not really tied to your SIN-Chip. The chip is just a small datachip that stores the number.
Scanning a SIN
A SIN can be scanned to reveal it's most vital informations, anything more than that needs the use of trackers. Like most things in the world, scanners come in different categories, depending on their access to tracking services, while the use of said tracking services also comes at an additional cost.
The most basic of scanners are what can be found at any Stuffer Store, any CredStation, any kind of Public Transport and so on. They require no payment as they do not use any trackers. They simply display 2 things on a scan of a SIN.
- Is the scanned literal a valid SIN? Yes or No?
- Is the SIN associated with a valid Bank Account? Yes or No?
It does not reveal any details about your person not even the ones that are directly ingrained into your SIN.
Those are the scanners most local law-enforcement agents carry around and some of these babies might even be found at certain clubs or other public locales. They scan your SIN and decrypt the ingrained information, still without the use of any trackers, so at no additional cost. The decrypted information contains:
- your name
- birth date
- place of birth
- authority that issued the SIN
Now we start getting into tracking scanners. The more intense the check the more it costs the entity doing the checking. Most Black Star star agents stop at Tier-3 scanners, as they contain more than enough information for them, including:
- Everything a Tier-2 Scanner reads
- Current Citizen status
- Eye colour
An exclusive party might have a level 6 scanner just as a prestige flex. The host can afford it. And any Crossers who crash are at least guaranteed to be top notch professionals, which is important to the elite in this world.
A basic SIN allows a person to function within the most basic parameters of the law. If a person wants to operate outside these very confining strictures, they need special permission in the form of a license. What actions or items require a license vary widely with the laws of the planet, but there are some common similarities shown in the Common Licenses Table below. Acquiring a license (legally) is, again, dependent on the laws of the planet. For the most part, acquiring a license involves making an application, paying some sort of fee, a SIN check, and possibly passing one or more certification, testing, or training programs. The exact details of acquiring a license are left up to the gamemaster, but government bureaucracies are notoriously slow and frustrating.
|Item||Any restricted item (Availability "R").|
|Biotics||License to use Biotics, registered as active Biotic.|
|Technomancy||Registered Technomancer, license to use Resonance abilites.|
|Occupational||Registered Professional (doctor, private detective, etc.)|
|Vehicle||License to pilot a type of vehicle (car, motorcycle, plane, spacecraft, etc.)|
For those without the privilege (or curse) of being born with a SIN, there is very little choice in how they can live. You either get issued a real SIN after birth (which requires an act of government—good luck with that!), live your life on the outside (which most choose to do), or get yourself a fake SIN. Although SIN registry databases are incredibly secure, they are still accessible online (they have to be) which makes them vulnerable. Demand and value for fake SINs is such that many of the shadier organizations in the world, including all major criminal syndicates, make a business of creating fake SINs. Getting a fake SIN created and registered with all of the proper authorities is a long and involved process of hacking and data fraud that exploits loopholes and other identified flaws in the system. Generally speaking, the more time that is taken in crafting a false identity, the more believable (or “real”) it becomes. Hastily created identities may work if someone just wants to be able to buy a Nuke ‘em Burger at the Stuffer Store, but it won’t hold up to any sort of scrutiny. The amount of time and care taken in creating a fake SIN is represented by its Rating. A low Rating SIN consists of only the most basic information—such as the SIN number itself. Related information such as biometric data will likely be missing or obviously false if checked (“Hey, this is the DNA of a chicken ...”). Other issues may be the consistency, or fit, of the identity to the individual. If a Crosser just needs an identity—any identity—right now, they may end up purchasing a SIN for a ten-year-old Korrug girl. Higher Rating, and thus more expensive, fake SINs have been lovingly crafted over time with a great deal of attention to detail. An identity will be chosen that matches the age and nationality of the person purchasing it, and it will have plausible supporting information such as travel and purchasing history. Biometric data associated with a high-Rating SIN will be from a real person with the same sex and nationality as the purchaser with (if the extra fee is paid) matching organic samples available (blood, skin cells, hair—just don’t ask where they came from).
Checking a Fake SINWhile having some sort of SIN is mandatory for a person to interact in any way with the “civilized” (as they would put it) world, the level to which the SIN is checked and verified varies widely based on the situation and who is doing the checking. In game terms the sophistication of the system doing the checking and how much information it is able to verify is represented by its Rating. Less sophisticated units will perform only the most basic checks, while more sophisticated ones will perform a deeper analysis with cross-verification. In game terms, the gamemaster should make a Simple Device Rating x 2 Test with a threshold equal to the rating of the fake SIN. If the number of hits is under the threshold, the system reports no problem. If the threshold is reached but not exceeded, the system reports that something seems “odd” with the SIN and will recommend that the operator investigate further. Whether the operator actually does anything is up to them. If the threshold is exceeded, the system reports the SIN as false and may immediately notify the authorities. At this point, the fake SIN is considered burned. Now the issuing authority has a superior position in knwowing, if a given SIN is real or fake. It's just a matter of checking their Database (for one if it is registered in there, and two, if there are any anomalies within the Dataset). So that sounds like it makes life impossible for Crossers and other criminal SINless sorts, right? You’ll get spotted in seconds. Fortunately not. There are two obstacles that even the megacorps face: If the Hacker, that amde your SIn properly deployed all Data onto their Database (unnoticed) and didn't make any grave mistakes in the consistency of the provided data (coming down to the rating of your SIN), it is pretty hard for them to detect if your SIN is fake. It is still possible but it might take a lot of time and effort on their part, more than they might be willing to take, as long as you didn't cause them any problems that might validate such an investment. The second thing that hinders any corporation from just checking your SIN are the deep dysfunctions that characterise so much of life in the World of Swan Song. There is one and only one entity - the issuing authority - that knows for sure if a given SIN is valid or not. They’re the only ones that can confirm or deny your identity, as any record in the Galactic Database was synced in from their own Database. And very often, depending on who's asking, they aren’t telling.
There is only one exception to this rules: The Swan Song Protocol. The AI that forms and controls the Matrix can't be fooled by any Fake SIN, as every Hacker has to use the Matrix to produce any such record and any SIN that get's registered in the Matrix is automatically noticed by Swan Song. But even most hackers don't know about this fact.
When a fake SIN has been checked and found to be false, the SIN Verification System notes this immediately. If it is connected to the Matrix (and what isn’t these days), it reports the fake SIN, via a special emergency message, back to the SIN registry system of the planet in which the verification takes place. Any further use of the fake SIN automatically fails. At this point, the Crosser or person using the fake SIN should abandon it for good. If that’s not an option, there is small chance that it can still be used. A SIN is only marked as burned instantly on the planet where it was detected. Data sharing between planets is not always perfect or instantaneous. At the gamemaster’s discretion, a SIN that has been burned on one planet may not be burned on a different planet, until all Data has been synced with the Galatic Database, which happens roughly every 24 hours for core planets.
A SIN is a universe wide unique hexadecimal literal, with the following properties:
- It’s guaranteed to be unique across the entire universe; each SIN is only handed out to one person.
- The SIN can be decoded to give the same sort of basic biographic information
- The SIN is registered at the issuing authority and the Galactic SIN Regsiter
- The SIN is linked to every bit of Matrix information available about you.
Example SIN Check
Suppose a Black Star beat cop spots you walking down the street, and doesn’t like the look of you. He pulls the SIN off your commlink. First off, his commlink decodes the basic biographic information. As long as your fake SIN isn’t total junk, this’ll match your appearance. (If it claims you’re a 100 pound 14-year-old girl and you’re actually a middle-aged Korrug… well, you’re busted, chummer. Time for fight-or-flight.) Next, our cop signals his commlink to tell a Black Star computer to verify the SIN. Unfortunately for him, it was issued by Knight Solitude, an Ares subsidiary and Black Star’s competitive nemesis. If BS just ask KS “is this SIN valid”, KS’s gonna tell them to frag off. So, back to our Lone Star beat cop, trying to check your SIN. The Star’s server will have contracts in place that allow it to send a SIN-checking-Request to the Galatic SIN Register and scan through it with some proprietary checking algorithms. That data will either look good - in which case, you’re in the clear. Or it’ll trigger some red flags - in which case we’re back to fight-or-flight. Unless you can talk your way out of it - after all, even genuine SINs can fail these verification checks sometimes. A real SIN leaves consistent trails everywhere it goes… but a fake SIN will have fake data behind it. Data with gaps, data that’s inconsistent, or data that jumps around geographically (on Athenea one minute, on Prometheon the next), or data that just doesn’t look right. So the quality of a fake SIN, then, is in the quality of the data behind it. How much work the console cowboys who made it for you put into creating a realistic, solid, believable data trail behind it - what the hardboiled spies in the old movies call a legend. The better that is, the more chance it’ll fool the checking algorithms when they come calling for you.