Lower House passes ‘my number’ bill

Kyodo

The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to assign citizens individual numbers to improve social security management, despite concerns over misuse of personal data.

The bill, endorsed by both the ruling and opposition camps in the lower chamber of the Diet, is widely expected to pass the House of Councilors for enactment in the Diet session set to end next month, for implementation in 2016.

Under the plan, Japan would assign a “my number” to each individual starting around fall 2015 and manage their income, social security and tax information in an integrated manner from January 2016.

This is expected to make data collection by public offices more accurate and ensure a fair and simple system to provide welfare benefits and tax credits to citizens. Recipients of these benefits are currently required to submit various documents to the offices, such as certificates of residence and income.

The system would also help financial institutions identify individuals who lose their belongings in a natural disaster, officials said.

To prevent abuse, the bill also stipulates setting up a third-party body to probe allegations of data abuse by public offices, with a maximum penalty of four years in prison or a ¥2 million fine set for officials leaking information.