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Tokyo’s Suginami Ward filed a 44.7 million yen damages suit Tuesday against the central and Tokyo Metropolitan governments for not accepting partial data on residents for the national resident registry network, which was launched last August.

The suit, filed with the Tokyo District Court, arises from a decision by the ward to allow its residents to decide if they wanted their personal data entered in the national network, known as Juki Net.

According to the petition, the ward decided to phase in its participation in the network by only sending data pertaining to those residents who consented to participate in the network, instead of making its residents comply all at once.

The ward, which has a population of about 520,000, had originally refused to take part in the network, citing a lack of measures to protect privacy. But it decided to phase in its participation after the Diet enacted a set of privacy protection laws.

The ward said 427,000 of its residents had chosen to be registered in the national network as of Dec. 1.

However, the central and metropolitan governments refused to accept the data, saying all the ward’s residents must participate.

The petition says: “The state has allowed the city of Yokohama to phase in its participation, and the government’s decision not to allow Suginami Ward to operate such a scheme violates the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment under the law.”

The suit demands that the state compensate the ward for the cost of gathering residents’ opinions on the system.

The ward also wants the court to declare that the metro government is legally obliged to accept the partial data.

Yokohama decided to allow its residents to choose whether their personal data can be registered in the network. To explain the move, the city cited the fact that the system is flawed in terms of security.

In April 2003, Yokohama agreed with the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry to send data on all of its residents once it confirms that the system is secure.

However, the city has not fully participated in the system, saying it has yet to confirm the system is secure against information leaks and illegal access to personal data.

The ministry said the agreement with Yokohama was a temporary measure only effective until last August, when the system debuted, and the city’s current situation also violates the law.

The ministry earlier said it had allowed the phase-in scheme for Yokohama to avoid the nonparticipation of the huge municipality in the network and because the city was prepared to fully participate in the future.

Speaking at a regular news conference earlier Tuesday, public management minister Taro Aso said that while he had yet to see the lawsuit, Yokohama’s situation is also a violation of the law, if there is a gap between how the two municipalities are being treated.

He added that he has called on Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada to correct the situation, though he added that the ministry is not considering any immediate punishment.

Suginami Ward meanwhile released a statement in which it cited three reasons why its action was significant.

The ward said it wants the judiciary to clarify the responsibility and authority of the local government in protecting the privacy of its residents.

It also said that it cannot condone any arbitrary handling of such matters by the central and prefectural governments and that it wished to make such lawsuits a fair and clear-cut mechanism to settle disputes with the state and prefectures.

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