EFF has been monitoring governmental proposals for national identification schemes, with an eye toward evaluating the privacy implications of these new systems. In Japan, where an existing program issues unique ID numbers to citizens at the municipal level and shares information on a national network, a bill is under consideration that would create a new ID framework. Submitted by the Japanese Cabinet in February of 2012, the “My Number Bill” would issue new unique ID numbers to participating citizens. The stated purpose is to streamline information sharing between governmental bodies administering tax, social security, and disaster mitigation programs. If the law is enacted, the My Number system will begin operating in 2015.
So far, there are no signs that Japan’s government will follow the increasingly common trend of requiring citizens to submit biometric data, such as fingerprint or iris scans, in order to enroll. Nevertheless, it’s clear that data submitted by participating citizens will be subject to greater information sharing than under the prior system. This planned expansion gives rise to serious questions about whether individuals’ personally identifiable information will be adequately protected. While the existing ID framework is highly controversial due to privacy concerns, this proposal will disseminate personal data farther and wider, making it even harder for individuals to exercise control their own information.