City sued over use of cards carrying registry numbers

Kyodo

A citizens’ group on Wednesday sought 1.5 million yen in compensation from the Oita Municipal Government for violating their privacy after people were sent numbers for the national resident registry via semitransparent post cards.

According to the suit, filed with the Oita District Court, the local government sent out the cards to around 170,000 households in August. The group criticized the use of the cards, which peal open, saying the numbers could easily be read if held against a light.

While some citizens have filed lawsuits to challenge the constitutionality of the network, the Oita case is the first to challenge the way people are informed of their numbers, according to the public management ministry.

The plaintiffs are five Oita residents, including a city official and a lawyer.

Facing the criticism, the city of Oita switched to envelops for some 90,000 households, spending an additional 11 million yen, the plaintiffs said.

The citizens’ group said it will file another lawsuit if the city does not return the additional expenses to municipal coffers.

The national resident registry network, which was launched in August, links basic residency registries across Japan by encoding personal information, including a person’s name, address, date of birth and sex, alongside an 11-digit number.