- Historical background
- The Civil Registration System - purpose
- The Civil Registration System
- Utilisation of the Civil Registration System
- Further development of the Civil Registration
The administration of a public activity has always required some form of
registration. Since the work of the public administration mainly involves
dealing with people, it is necessary to be able to identify such persons and
gain access to general personal data, inter alia, name, address, age, marital
In countries which do not have centralised, computerised registration of the
most common personal data, the public authorities must request the citizens to
furnish the same data time and again. In consequence, the data of the different
authorities is not only of poor quality, often it is not identical. This is
because an updating does not take place regularly, but depends on the citizen's
contact with the relevant authorities. Moreover, it is, for example, not
possible to compile optimum nationwide statistics for development and planning
purposes. The establishment of a centralised civil registration system is thus
the basis for the creation of a streamlined and rational administrative
infrastructure. This enables the public authorities to give the citizens the
best possible service.
It is characteristic for present-day Denmark that the public authorities base
their performance of their duties on an administrative infrastructure which
focuses on the application of centralised edp registers, of which the Civil
Registration System (CRS) contains general personal data on persons with (or who
may have had) residence in Denmark or Greenland.
The centralised civil register in Denmark was set up on 2 April 1968 on the
basis of the previously manually compiled municipal registers. The CRS, which
serves as a national register, has thus existed for more than 25 years. The CRS
Office of the Ministry of the Interior administrates the system, which contains
data on about 7.7 million persons, of whom about 5.4 million currently are
residents of Denmark and Greenland. Furthermore, the register contains
information about approximately 2.9 million dwellings, about 106,000 roads and
about 3,000 authorities. The data content of the Civil Registration System
currently amounts to about 27 Gigabyte which equals about 27 billion characters.
2. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
In Denmark, the registration of births, marriages and deaths, etc., has for
centuries taken place in the parish registers. An actual registration of the
nation's population did not take place until 1924, when an act of parliament
created local municipal registers.
At the time, several neighbouring countries had already established national
registers. The reason the question became relevant in Denmark was the
ever-growing public administration, especially at local government level where
the rise in expenditure necessitated the collection of taxes, etc.
Moreover, the administation of the rationing scheme after the first world war
required the establishment of a reliable population register.
It is characteristic for the act of 1924 that the municipal registers were
not compiled for any specific purpose, but were meant to back up the public
administration in general. The municipal registers should comprise all residents
within the municipality and should be updated on a current basis. The main
purpose was to meet the demand for personal data at the local administrative
level, and then to service central government bodies and private civilians who
enquired about current addresses, etc.
With reference to the act of 1924, executive orders and circulars were issued
stipulating the rules for keeping the registers.
The establishment of the municipal registers was based on a general census
held in 1924. At the same time the keepers of the parish registers,
traditionally the clergy, were requested to report data on births, names and
deaths, later also other personal data, to the municipal registers.
The municipal registers were, until the creation of the CRS, based on 3
files: head cards, the exit-register for head cards, and the name file. The head
cards consisted of a card for each family group living together or for a single
person (above 15 years of age), and contained all the registered data on these
persons, including the data required to compile voters' lists. The exit register
contained the head cards on persons, who had moved out of the municipality or
died, and the name file contained names and addresses and served as index to the
head card file. Head cards and exit cards were sorted by address, the name cards
With the exception of a number of minor points, this system remained intact
until it, for several reasons, became necessary to get the legal authority to
set up the centralised civil register, the CRS, which happened with the new
National Registration Act dated 10 June 1968.
3. THE CIVIL REGISTRATION SYSTEM - PURPOSE
The centralised CRS was created in 1968 by copying the contents of the
manually kept municipal civil registers. There were two main reasons for the
establishment of the CRS:
- The ever-growing need for information about general personal data,
especially addresses, and
- The need for a general identification of individuals, which could be used
throughout the public administration.
The latter became even more relevant in connection with the plans to
introduce a centralised P.A.Y.E. (pay-as-you-earn) tax system, as the
implementation of a CRS comprising a personal identification number system was
an absolute precondition for the introduction of the P.A.Y.E. tax.
The purpose of the CRS was to administrate the personal identification number
system and general personal data forwarded by the municipal registration offices
to the CRS. Moreover, the CRS should supply personal data in a technically
and/or economically suitable manner in compliance with the legislation governing
registers and civil registration. In view of the steadily rising use of
information technology this purpose has become even more relevant.
The CRS thus promotes greater efficiency and rationalisation within the
public as well as the private sector. The CRS ensures that work is based on a
uniform data platform. The individual authority or company is exempt from having
to collect and verify general personal data from citizens, who in turn are
exempt from notifying changes of address, changes of name, etc., to a number of
authorities and private companies, which instead retrieve or receive this
information from the CRS. In general, the CRS functions as an index to the
authorities supplying the data, i.e. the parish registers, courts, counties,
local marriage offices, etc., since the personal data registered in the CRS is
accompanied by information about the reporting authority.
The personal number scheme and the standardisation of personal data, which is
the result of the CRS, is a precondition for the execution of an expedient and
rational legislation and administration in a number of public sectors which do
not receive information directly from the CRS.
4. THE CIVIL REGISTRATION SYSTEM
Since its creation the CRS has undergone numerous changes, including major
alterations as well as minor adjustments. This is the outcome of the
technological development and the changing demands to the system as well as
changes in the co-operation with the offices involved in operating the system.
Users of the CRS can retrieve information about individuals either by entering
the personal identification number or by searching using date of birth - perhaps
name, or using the address or name alone. It is possible to use current as well
as former names and addresses in the search. Via granted access it is possible
to search in the registers which the CRS encompasses. The most important are:
The civil register; contains current information about each citizen,
cf. section 4.1, including the personal identity number. The register also lists
former (historical) addresses, names, civil status and citizenships.
The road system register; contains current information on all roads in
the nation. Each road is assigned a road code, a name and information about the
road's administrative relationship, e.g. parishes, postal districts and voting
districts. Via the road register the road code in the civil register can be
filled out with road name, etc.
The housing register; contains all addresses in the country
(dwellings) and localities sorted by address code and displays the housing code
for the utilisation of the dwelling. The housing register is used for extracts
where it is necessary or practical to use the address as access to the regiser
and to check whether people are moving to an approved dwelling.
The register of authorities; is an index of all authorities that the
CRS is in contact with. The register lists the authority's address, telephone
number and facsimile number. It also lists the municipalities' place in the
general public administration, e.g. in relation to courts, counties and police
4.1 Personal data in the CRS
The main rule is that people who live in Denmark legally for a certain amount
of time must register with the national registration offices. This registration
with the national registration offices/the CRS is necessary to obtain a personal
identification number. Consequently, the CRS encompasses persons, who have lived
in Denmark since 2 April 1968 and have registered with the national registration
offices - in respect of Greenland since 1 May 1972, since the national
registration act was extended to Greenland, which is a Danish province, in 1972.
The file on the individual cizen in the CRS contains information about
identification number, name, address, marital status (including spouse), place
of birth, citizenship, kinship (parents/children), declaration of incapacity,
profession, membership of the Lutheran Church of Denmark, voting rights,
municipal circumstances, registration notes and death. Changes in respect of
name, address, civil status and citizenship are updated without old data being
deleted from the CRS; it remains on file as historical data.
Persons who die, disappear, or emigrates from Denmark remain in the CRS,
which is why it today contains information about 7.7 million people.
4.2 The personal identification number
Everybody, who is registered in the CRS, receives a personal identification
number. The identity number is unique to the person and thus functions as
identification of each individual. Almost the entire public administation uses
the identification number, inter alia, to avoid duplicate registration and
errors in respect of a person's identity. The use of the identity number also
facilitates the collaboration between the CRS and the public authorities
receiving data from the CRS.
The personal identification number consists of 10 ciphers, six ciphers for
the person's date of birth (i.e. two for the day, two for the month and two for
the year). Then follows a serial number of four ciphers.
The tenth and last cipher in the identification number is the check cipher.
It discloses any errors in the identity number. The check cipher also indicates
the person's sex, since an odd cipher denotes a male and an even cipher a
female. A randomly picked identity number for a male born on 7 July 1961 may
look this way: 070761-4285, with the first six ciphers referring to his date of
birth and year and the last four ciphers being the serial number, with the
tenth, odd cipher denoting the sex of the person.
In connection with the allocation of a personal identification number, the
individual has so far received a personal identification card. This ID-card has
been issued since 1968 and serves three purposes: First, the individual person
is advised of the allocated identification number; second, it is possible to
check the data contents to the extent it appears on the card, namely date of
birth, sex, name and address. Quite a number of errors in connection with the
establishment of the CRS in 1968 have been found this way and corrected,
including dublicate numbers and missing numbers.
Third, the personal ID-card could at its introduction in 1968 to some extent
serve as an ID-card - especially in connection with the introduction of the
P.A.Y.E. tax system, as the individual employee must be able to prove the number
to the employer - although the card's execution and contents cannot compare with
a genuine ID-card.
However, the personal ID-card has become obsolete years ago and cannot be
used as identification since address and name are not updated on a current
basis. The name 'personal identity card' was abolished in August 1995. The
citizen will still be notified in writing by the CRS of any new identification
number (naming infants, immigration and change of identification number (in case
of error in sex and/or date of birth)).
4.3 Updating the CRS
Registration takes place via the national registration offices which
via link to the CRS forward the information received from citizens and the
relevant authorities registering basic data.
Under the National Registration Act the citizens are obliged to notify the
national registration offices of changes of address when moving within the
country's boundaries and when moving to or returning from another country. In
connection with information about naming or change of name, marriages,
adoptions, divorces, etc., the national registration offices receive information
from the public authorities which in the mentioned instances are responsible for
registering basic data. The counties, for example, report information about
adoptions, paternity acknowledgement, divorce, etc., whereas for example the
courts report adoption annulments, paternity verdicts, declarations of
The citizens notify births, naming and certain changes of name and deaths to
the parish registers. This information - and information about weddings, and
membership of or resignation from the Danish state church - the national
registration offices receive from the parish registers such that in this
instance a duplicate registration takes place because only the entry of births,
names and deaths in the parish registers is considered legal proof hereof.
All authorities with which the CRS is in contact have been allocated a
four-ciphered code. The codes are used for registration such that the CRS serves
as an index to the authorities responsible for registering basic data. These
authority codes are registered in the previously mentioned register of
authorities. The authorities responsible for basic data are also obliged to
report administrative changes, e.g. amalgamation of parishes, counties, etc.,
directly to the CRS, such that the register of authorities is up-to-date.
With the modernization of the CRS it is possible to update system on-line in the
local civil registration offices. Therefore the CRS is updated in real-time all year
round, in other words: 365x24x7. This is especially a great advantage
for the numerous other public authorities with direct terminal access to the
registers of the CRS.
5. UTILISATION OF THE CIVIL REGISTRATION
Up to the 1st of july 2000 the utilisation and operation of the CRS took place in accordance
with the statutory provisions of the the National Registration Act, but it was
primarily the act of 1978 on the registers of public authorities which was important for
the utilisation of the CRS.
The Registers Act was passed 10 years after the creation of the CRS, which
means that according to the National Registration Act of 1968 it was the
Minister of the Interior who set the rules for the utilisation of the CRS. In
order to ensure an appropriate development and use of the CRS a civil
registration committee was formed to monitor the development and advise on
pricipal questions in connection with civil registration.
The civil registration committee was abolished with the change of the
National Registration Act in 1978 and the implementation of the register
legislation and the creation of a general supervisory authority for registers.
The purpose of the Registers Act, and the Supervisory Authority for
Registers authorised herein, was to guarantee the necessary protection of the individual
citizen's private life and personal integrity in connection with the creation
and utilisation of public and private registers.
The Registers Act had set out general provisions for the operation of
edp-registers including, inter alia, which data it is permitted to register and
pass on, the requisite security measures and the admission to 'own access'.
Moreover, the Registers Act introduced the obligation to produce -
after prior presentation for the Supervisory Authority for Registers - special
rules for the individual register. The rules had to comply with the stipulations of the
Registers Act and this means, e.g. that only information of material relevance
for the performance of the authority's responsibilities can be registered.
The utilisation of the CRS was until the 1st og
july 2001 thus subject to the Registers Act and more specific the National
Registration Act of 1978.
Act on Processing of Personal Data (Act No. 429 of 31 May 2000) entered into force on the 1st of July 2000. The act implements Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of
individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free
movement of such data. The Act on Processing of Personal Data substitutes The Public Authorities' Registers Act
and The Private Registers Act.
At the same day the Danish Act on the Civil Registration System entered into
force and substituted the National Registration Act of 1968.
The Danish Act on the Civil Registration System has as a consequence an
enhanced CRS-access for the private sector. Before this act, it was only
possible for private companys to get access to information in the CRS if it was
a matter of custumorrelations. Today it is possible for different kinds of
private entities, for example a company, an organization or an union, to
retrieve CRS-informations on individuals, there are entitled to process
informaiton about by the Act on Processing of Personal Data.
Also accordingly to the Act on Processing of Personal Data the private sector
is no longer obliged to retrieve permission from the The Danish Data Protection
Agency in advance.
With the Act on Processing of Personal Data the public sector is bound
to the same rules as the private sector with respect to the processing and
utilisation of CRS-information.
The utilisation of the CRS has increased steadily since the establishment in
1968, which primarly can be ascribed to the rationalisation potential attached
to applying the personal identity number to sort all kinds of personal data and
collect updated personal data from CRS instead of having to collect information
from the citizens. The CRS is used by the entire public administation in Denmark
and private companies, including all the leading banks and insurers.
Public and private use of the CRS has become large scale since 1968 and today
about 100 million personal data is supplied by data transmission and some 10-15
million terminal enquiries are made in the CRS annually. In view of the
efficiency and rationalisation gains of the private and public sector from using
the CRS system and the ever growing utilisation of CRS, the utility value of the
Danish CRS system is estimated to add up to several hundred million kroner
The fact that the utility value of using the CRS is markedly higher than the
costs entailed can be illustrated as follows. An analysis of the outgoing mail
from a bank revealed that the volume of return mail due to wrong addresses
dropped from 3.2 per cent to 0.6 per cent (i.e., 2.6 per cent) in connection
with using the CRS to update the bank's customer file.
A bank with one million customers forward an average of 10 million letters
annually at an average postage expense of DKK 4.00 per letter. Hence, the bank
has an annual postage expense account of DKK 40 million. A 2.6 per cent drop in
the return mail volume will save about DKK 1 million in postage. To this should
be added savings in administration of updating customers' address files,
handling return mail and other expenses related to return mail, e.g. prints,
stationary, envelopes, etc., which combined adds up to a substantially bigger
share of the expenses connected with return mail.
A prudent estimate would be an annual cost reduction of DKK 5 million as a
minimum for this bank. The expense of utilising the CRS to update the customer
file for 1 million persons amounts to about DKK 150,000 annually.
Under the CRS subscription scheme about 9 million people are registered as
being a bank customer, which cf. the above implies an aggregate saving of at
least DKK 45 million for the banking sector when using the CRS to update
Similar exercises can be carried out for other areas of the private sector
and for the public sector in general.
In general, there are three types of utilisation of the CRS: direct terminal
access to the CRS, extracts from CRS and individual data from the CRS.
5.1 Terminal access to the CRS
All Danish public authorities can obtain permission to access via terminal
the information in the CRS which is relevant for the authorities in order to
carry out their responsibilities. The terminal access comprises nationwide
search in the general CRS civil index, i.e. persons who live or have lived in
Denmark since 2 April 1968 - for Greenland after 1 May 1972.
Another type of 'terminal access' to CRS is on-line delivery of personal data
from CRS to the authority's own edp application, where the authority's
application calls up the CRS using the personal identification number as key.
Programme to programme communication is used in connection with the user's
terminal solutions, when the CRS personal data is not available in the
authority's own register. When using a terminal, the operator automatically
retrieves data from the CRS. The data can then be entered into the authority's
own register and /or be displayed on screen.
Since 1996 private companies has terminal access til CPR. They only have
access to data that are not sensitive, such as name and address.
5.2 Extracts from the CRS
With the exception of specially defined extracts from the CRS, extracts from
the CRS have from the beginning been based on a standard extract system which
executes so-called bulk extracts. These are made on a daily basis by batch runs
in the evening.
Bulk extracts are available as status extracts, which means an extract
covering a group of persons as it appears in the database at a given time, and
as amendment extracts, which is current delivery of amendments to the group of
persons by subscription. Daily amendment extracts are supplied to update public
and private edp registers, inter alia, the civil tax register, the pension
register (Labour Market Supplementary Pension Fund), the joint municipal
registers, local government registers, public statistical registers, etc. There
are currently about 200 subscribers.
Specially defined extracts are, inter alia: voters' lists for general
elections, local government elections, parish council elections, EU elections,
etc., parish lists of the members of the Lutheran Church of Denmark for use by
the clergy, and extracts for research and statistics. Most of the extracts are
supplied via telecommunication lines (file transmission).
In respect of statistics the extracts from the CRS are, e.g. used for current
population statistics, which meant that manual censuses ceased in the early
1980s. The CRS also forms the basis for demographic planning (schools,
In connection with, for example, the calling of a general election, the CRS
only needs two to three days to supply the data needed by the municipal edp
facilities to compile and issue voters' lists and election cards, which means
that a general election can be called at 18 days' notice.
Direct mail is a service offered by CRS to public authorities and in
connection with public and private research and statisctics projects. Research
and statistics projects often target a special group of people, which has been
chosen according to already defined criteria. In this connection, the CRS can
offer the public authorities to extract the defined target group from CRS as
well as mailing.
In connection with private research and statistics projects, the CRS can
likewise extract defined target groups from the CRS and at the same time
guarantee the anonymity of the individual. The envelopes are mailed with the
Ministry of the Interior as sender and the private researcher or statistician is
not told who receive the letters. People can avoid being contacted in connection
with research and statistics projects based on extracts from the CRS if they
notify the CRS office, which then register their wish in the CRS.
5.3 Specific data from CRS
Specific data about individuals, whom the enquirer identify by using a
combination of name and either address, personal identification number or date
of birth, can be obtained upon request from the local registration offices which
all have terminal access to the CRS and thus are capable of answering queries -
irrespective of where the sought person lives at present. Private people cannot
obtain an address if the citizen in question has requested it to be
confidential, however, this does not apply to enquiries from the citizen's
6. FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE CIVIL REGISTRATION
An adaptation of the CRS system on a current basis is necessary in order to
keep up with the technological development and changing user demands. If this is
not carried out satisfactorily, public and private administrative entities will
develop parallel systems for the collection of the same personal data, which is
stored in the CRS, at a greater overall cost.
In general, the collaboration with the CRS has everywhere improved and
rationalised private as well as public administrative procedures.
The goal is that the authority that receives information can updata the data
in CRS. Today many authorities receive information, write it on form, and send
it to the registration office in the municipality, which retype the information
To make this proces more efficient a new version of the update
system has been developed. With the new system authorities such as
counties and courts is able to update in CRS. Furthermore the new update
system is able to handle the new electronic parish register.
At the request of the users of the CRS the data contents of the CRS system
might be increased.
The CRS systems are being converted from a character based user interface to
a more user friendly graphical interface based on web
Further development of the CRS involves technical progress and greater
quality. Technically, the CRS will develop in accordance with the requirements
to adaptation arising out of the growing utilisation of information technology
and technological developments.
In respect of quality, the CRS will develop through a steady increase of the
data contents such that the data in the CRS supports the need for personal
information in the public as well as private administration.
Citizens and companies will thus experience a better service, including the
use of self-service systems, increased and flexible extract options, etc.
The centralised civil register (CRS), which has existed in Denmark for more
than 25 years, is a nationwide civil register whose purpose is to administrate
the personal identification number system, to administrate general personal data
reported from the national registration offices to the CRS, and to forward
personal data in a technically/economically suitable manner in accordance with
the Danish Act on the Civil Registration System and The Act on Processing of Personal Data.
The CRS promotes greater efficiency and rationalisation within the public as
well as the private sector. The CRS is likewise a precondition for working with
uniform data. Accordingly, the individual authority or company is thus exempted
from collecting and verifying general personal data from the citizens, who in
turn are exempted from notifying change of address, change of name, etc., to a
number of public authorities and private companies which instead retrieve this
information from the CRS. In this way the citizens experience a better service
when approaching the public authorities.
Since its establishment the utilisation of the CRS has grown steadily, which
to a large extent can be ascribed to the rationalisation potential inherent in
the use of a personal identification number system to sort personal data and
obtain up-to-date personal information from the CRS instead of having to collect
it from the citizens. In Denmark, the CRS is used by the entire public
administration, all the leading banks and insurance companies, as well as in
connection with research and statistics projects.
Since 1968, public and private users' utilisation of the CRS has progressed
considerably and today the CRS supplies about 100 million personal data via data
transmission and between 10-15 million terminal searches are made in the CRS
annually. Against this background, the utility value of the Danish CRS is
estimated to run into several hundred million kroner annually.
As a result of technological and administrative changes, it is necessary with
an ongoing adaptation of the CRS. If this does not take place, the public and
private administration units will develop parallel systems to collect personal
data at a great expense.
The further development of the CRS thus depends on technical development and
greater quality, such that the CRS is abreast of the technological development,
and moreover has a data base which supports the need for personal information in
the public as well as the private sector.
The CRS, which is administrated by the CRS Office of the Ministry of the
Interior, contains personal data covering about 7.7 million persons, of whom
about 5.4 million are current/living inhabitants of Denmark and Greenland. The
aggregate data contents currently amount to about 27 gigabyte, corresponding to
about 27 billion characters.
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