‘My Number’ Unlikely to Thaw Japan's Frozen Data Privacy Laws

Privacy Laws & Business International Report, Issue 120, December 2012, pgs 22-25

6 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2013

See all articles by Graham Greenleaf

Graham Greenleaf

University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law

Kiyoshi Murata

Meiji University

Andrew A. Adams

Meiji University

Date Written: December 1, 2012


This article examines Japan’s proposed ID card and data matching system, called 'My Number'. Any businesses operating in Japan will be very likely to find themselves dealing with aspects of the ‘My Number’ system if they seek to do any work on behalf of agencies at any level of the Japanese government, and will consequently have to comply with this additional layer of Japanese law. Japan’s current data privacy laws are frozen in low standards and lack of enforcement, despite being enacted almost a decade ago.

The ‘Bill for using a unique number to identify a particular citizen in administrative procedures’ (‘My Number Bill’) introduced into the Diet in February 2012, included an expansive version of an ID card and number system. The Japanese government claims that the permitted use of the My number is limited to uses for only three purposes, namely social welfare, taxation, and disaster damage prevention However, this article argues that the result of the Bill's drafting is that it effectively authorises very extensive data matching within Japan’s public sector: data collected for any of the defined purposes can be required and used for any of the other defined purposes, by other agencies. Individuals will have no remedies. Just as data subjects have no rights to take any individual action before a court if their rights have been violated under the existing data protection laws, they will have no rights if any illegal uses occur of their My Number information or files.

Implementation of this data matching system also raises the question of whether a country can remain compliant with the OECD privacy Guidelines if it abandons the ‘finality’ principle (use and disclosure only for the purposes of collection) across such a large part of its public sector, rather than making more specific exceptions to these principles. There are no means of testing this.

The Bill that has lapsed with the calling of the December election had general support from all parties. It is expected that a new Bill would undergo some revisions, but that its passage will return to the legislative agenda in 2013.

Keywords: data privacy, ID cards, privacy, data protection, Japan, My Number

Suggested Citation

Greenleaf, Graham and Murata, Kiyoshi and Adams, Andrew A., ‘My Number’ Unlikely to Thaw Japan's Frozen Data Privacy Laws (December 1, 2012). Privacy Laws & Business International Report, Issue 120, December 2012, pgs 22-25, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2207903

Graham Greenleaf (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law ( email )

Sydney, New South Wales 2052
+61 2 9385 2233 (Phone)
+61 2 9385 1175 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www2.austlii.edu.au/~graham

Kiyoshi Murata

Meiji University ( email )

1-1 Kanda Surugadai
Surugadai, Chiyoda, 101-8301

Andrew A. Adams

Meiji University ( email )


HOME PAGE: http://www.a-cubed.info/

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