Japanese Citizens to be Numbered by the Government

By Billy Hammond

At present, each Japanese citizen has a domicile registry maintained by the local government in the area where his or her residence is registered. A copy of this registry issued by the local government authority is required for various transactions, such as in applying for loans. Currently, a Japanese citizen who requires a certificate must apply at the office at which his or her domicile is registered.

The Japanese lawmakers passed a law (Kaisei Juminkihondaicho ho) in August 1999 that revised the law governing the domicile registries of Japanese citizens. It provides for the allocation of a number for each and every Japanese citizen and the management of the numbers online. Under the new system, citizens are supposed to be able to get a copy of their registry at any local government office in Japan. As may be surmised, the security implications are enormous. The system has been dubbed the "Juki Net" by the media and is scheduled for implementation on August 5, 2002 in spite of the outcry of public opinion against it.

A woman journalist on the TV show, "Sunday Project", which aired on July 21, 2002, along with others from the media and local government, stated their dissatisfaction and concerns regarding the invasion of privacy and possibility of security breaches to the Minister for Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, Toranosuke Katayama. Katayama pooh-poohed their presentations and maintained his stance that the system was safe and designed to protect the privacy of citizens. The citizens themselves do not seem to support this system, which is scheduled to be implemented in August, with 86% responding with "uncertainty" and 76% desiring a postponement in a phone survey conducted by the Asahi Shinbun on July 20th and 21st.

The "Juki Net" will have the following information input into it: the citizen's Name, Sex, Date of Birth, Address and the Number (Domicile Registry Code), and will allow the citizen to get an output of his or her registry at any local government office in Japan. The number will be an 11-digit number, with one digit used for arrangement purposes, leaving 10 numbers to be used for individuals. The numbers will be assigned to citizens by the relevant local government offices at random.

Each local government office has been charged with the task of delivering these numbers to the citizens while protecting their privacy. The numbers are to be sent out after mid-August in sealed envelopes or in sealed cards. Citizens who don't like the numbers assigned to them can apply for the assignment of new numbers. The old number assigned to the citizen will not be reused.

In August of 2003, the second phase of this program will commence and Japanese citizens who want them will be able to receive an IC chip, called the "Jumin Kihondaicho Card", which will have their information recorded on it.

The Ministry for Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications estimates that it will be able to save 13 billion yen per year in office expenses through the use of this system. The start up costs for this system are estimated at 36.5 billion yen and running costs are expected to 19 billion yen per year.

From where I see it, this system presents a wonderful opportunity for the Japanese government to expand the use of this number to their tax system, retirement system and just about everything else that is currently handled separately. It could develop into a cradle-to-grave monitoring system that could be used to efficiently manage the populace.

This system will probably become a terrific target for hackers. Information gleaned from this system could be sold in the form of direct mailing lists, which would allow searches for specific target populations to focus sales on. It could also be used for identity theft.

Given that some Japanese government sites have been hacked in the past, assurances by the government that they have a secure system ring rather hollow. Perhaps the majority of Japanese citizens are right to worry about having their privacy and identities compromised.

The views and opinions in this article are those of the author and do not represent any organization or group. Articles in the July 22, 2002 edition of the Asahi Shinbun (morning edition) were used as references in the preparation of this article. While efforts have been made to maintain accuracy in preparing this article, neither the author nor A.E.L.S.(TanuTech) assume any responsibility for errors which may appear within this article.

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Copyright July 22, 2002. Billy Hammond. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited. Mention of company names in this article does not constitute an endorsement.