My Number law takes effect amid privacy fears

Kyodo

With the My Number law taking effect Monday, the government has kicked off the controversial personal identification system to unify the administration of every resident’s official services and records, and will start sending numbers out to tens of thousands of households.

The numbers, which take effect in January to hopefully enhance the efficiency of administrative services, including taxation and the provision of social welfare benefits, are expected to reach some 55 million households on a tsuchi kaado (notification card) bearing 12 digits through registered mail between mid-October and the end of November.

Preparations for the system have been years in the making and have faced strong public resistance. The government is under pressure to handle the numbers carefully amid concerns that personal information could be leaked via use of the ID numbers.

In response to criticism that local governments and businesses are behind in work to introduce the numbers and that the central government has not provided residents with sufficient information, the government organized a meeting Monday of ministry officials tasked with pursuing measures to ensure better understanding of the new system.

Passed in 2013, the My Number law initially establishes links between separate personal information on taxation, social security and disaster relief benefits held by the central and local governments.

The system is supposed to help authorities combat tax evasion and illicit receipt of benefits, as well as simplify procedures for users of these governmental services.

The government will start linking My Numbers to individual bank accounts, initially with the permission of account holders, to help keep track of the assets of individuals for taxation purposes. It hopes to eventually make the linkage mandatory.

For their part, businesses will be obliged starting next year to collect the My Numbers of its employees, including both regular and part-timers, along with their dependents, and record them on the income tax forms they submit to tax offices.

After receiving the tsuuchi kaado, which is only for providing notification of the numbers, individuals starting in January can ask their local government to provide them with a kojin bango kaado (individual number card) bearing their face photo that can function as an ID card, at no cost.

The government aims to expand the available uses of this card. For example, it plans to make it possible to use the card to receive national health insurance benefits, which now require presentation of a hokensho (health insurance certificate) card.

Concerns remain over the potential leakage of personal information linked to My Numbers, especially after a massive personal information leakage from the Japan Pension Service earlier this year, in which the government was blasted for its poor protection of information.

Critics, including the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and consumer groups, have expressed fears over closer monitoring of individuals by the government and violations of privacy.

  • styrer

    And so the race to the authoritarian bottom continues. Not only is it farcical to assume that this system can be the safe protector of personal data, it is insulting in the extreme to be told once again that such a measure, proposed years ago and dropped after a Tokyo municipal office itself said it would withhold support after an outcry, is for ‘our own good’. The same language as nauseatingly used in the security (aka war) bills travesty is being applied here: it is our lack of ‘education’ that leads us to reject such an invasive attack on our right to privacy, and our minds will surely all be corrected once the proper explanations have been hammered home. This is no way to talk to a population that gave these morons a position in the first place.

    As with the war bills, and the huge numbers (unfortunately a nothingness compared to similar demonstrations in other countries, but a start at least) who turned out to demonstrate against the ignorant, hyper-arrogant law-breaking administration then, I hope we will see something like it, or even surpassing it, this time, to fiercely denounce this despicable encroachment on our right to privacy. SEALD’s, please get on the case.

    • keratomileusis

      This system is similar to those to be found in other industrialized countries. If the government or anyone else wants to spy on you or steal your information–and Snowden and Assange showed that they already are–they will do so. If Japanese are so worried they should dump their Smartphones. Japanese are definitely addicted to their devices.

      The next step is to make all workers pay into the social insurance system, no matter how many or few hours, and to get businesses to cough it up. Too many people are falling between the cracks because the system only taxes full time contract workers.

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  • thedudeabidez

    Anyone want to place a bet on how long it will be before we see a press conference with a bunch of grim-looking bureaucrats bowing deeply towards the cameras with their heads hung in shame after a massive data breach by hackers? I put my money on February
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  • neko_ni_koban

    Every country in Europe uses a system like this, and I fail to see how it is much different from the US social security number, which was introduced in 1935.

    • Uku Rere

      And in the US alone there are losses of $50,000,000,000 (billion!) from fraud and identity theft directly due to SSNs. Korea also has massive fraud in similar problems. And the EU is a massive surveillance state. You want to imitate that?

    • Ine Chan

      What system are you referring to exactly ? I am European and I don’t use a card or number or whatever when I go shopping.

    • Ine Chan

      What system are you referring to exactly ? I am European and I don’t use a card or number or whatever when I go shopping.

    • Ine Chan

      What system are you referring to exactly ? I am European and I don’t use a card or number or whatever when I go shopping.

    • Ine Chan

      What system are you referring to exactly ? I am European and I don’t use a card or number or whatever when I go shopping.

    • Ine Chan

      What system are you referring to exactly ? I am European and I don’t use a card or number or whatever when I go shopping.

    • Ine Chan

      What system are you referring to exactly ? I am European and I don’t use a card or number or whatever when I go shopping.

    • Ine Chan

      What system are you referring to exactly ? I am European and I don’t use a card or number or whatever when I go shopping.

  • w0t

    Security law + this statement about myNumber law “The government aims to expand the available uses of this card. ” Big brother is watching you and you have no idea how or what they will do with that information.