‘No privacy worries’ as Japan Tourism Authority tracks tourists via ‘meta data’


Dismissing privacy concerns, the Japan Tourism Authority is planning to use location data from cellphones to track tourists and discover popular spots in the interest of developing tourism resources.

Research using such data, known as “meta data,” covering an estimated 700,000 people will be conducted on a trial basis at Mount Fuji and seven other locations until March, the agency said.

Mobile carriers will update GPS phone location data every five minutes for a map information service company, which will in turn produce movement charts for analysis.

“Please feel at ease because personal information such as name, address and gender are removed,” a tourism official said.

The study aims to help travel agencies and municipal governments boost tourism, the agency said. Attempts to understand tourist movements are currently undertaken via conventional questionnaires.

Such surveys, however, fail to reveal much data about phenomena such as when visitors gather at places off the usual tourist trail, or how they move from sightseeing spots to their accommodations, the agency said.

The agency held its first meeting of experts on the use of meta data for tourism on Thursday.

  • Privacy is really not the issue; its an attempt to treat the symptoms. The problem is the arbitrary power of government to make decisions, such that ‘said data’ becomes threatening. Your best friend is a danger with personal data if you do something wrong. The issue is not:
    1. Whether they reported you – the issue is whether you can trust your friend to know you; to know that you didn’t act with criminal intent or performed the crime
    2. Whether the authorities acted arbitrarily, or without respect for facts. Privacy is an obstacle to the truth. The reason why you cannot afford to accept the premise ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ is because capricious or indifferent (non-objective) authorities have the capacity to cause harm, and make people feel vulnerable.