A government committee formalized a blueprint on Wednesday for basic legislation designed to protect personal information held by private organizations but explicitly exempting the media.

The legislation is intended to assist in regulating privacy in the Internet age, as various kinds of personal information are at risk of being circulated widely and quickly online without consent.

The report, which was handed to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori later in the day, calls for the exemption to also carry over to religious, academic and political groups to prevent the government from meddling in their activities.

The report sets five principles for information use:

* Information should be used for specific purposes and only to the extent necessary;

* It should be obtained by proper methods;

* Its accuracy should be maintained;

* It should be used only after appropriate safeguards are taken;

* And individuals involved should be able to control the information to some extent.

The report proposes legislation to oblige businesses using computer databases of personal information to follow these principles.

Specifically, the firms must not provide personal information to a third party without the consent of the individuals involved or without an urgent reason. They must also disclose the purpose of using the information and its contents to the individuals, the report says.

Businesses must correct or delete information they hold if the individuals it pertains to demand it, it says.

The report proposes that any trouble between information-handling firms and individuals should be resolved through special organizations set up by those firms, but adds that the individuals involved should also be able to ask Cabinet ministers to step in.

Cabinet ministers — heads of government ministries and agencies that supervise those firms — should be able to order the firms to improve or halt operations if they violate these obligations, it says. There must be penalties for violators of ministerial orders, but criminal punishment would not be appropriate, it says.

The blueprint exempts reporting activities from those obligations, because it says handling of personal information is closely related to freedom of the press. It urges media organizations to make “voluntary efforts” to follow the basic five principles.

The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association has demanded media groups be exempt from the basic principles.

The government will begin drafting a bill based on the report, with the hope of having it enacted next year.

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