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Japan's national ID network -- already live, a week early
- Date: Thu, 01 Aug 2002 00:41:47 -0400
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: FC: Japan's national ID network -- already live, a week early
- From: Declan McCullagh <email@example.com>
Previous Politech message:
"Japan's networked national ID system will go live on Aug. 8"
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2002 10:29:15 -0700
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gohsuke Takama)
Subject: Japan's national ID network has gone live already
Hi, another FYI. I thought some of Politech readers may be interested to
know an update.
Lies and Secrets
Japan's national ID network has gone live already
by Gohsuke Takama
Tokyo, Jul 31, 2002
It's Up and Running Already
Rhetorics and politics are good friends. Almost everyone in Japan including
politician has been believing that Japan's national ID network system, the
Basic Residents Registers Network, would go live on Aug 5 of this year. But
the truth is that it is already live since more than a week ago,
technically. And it has gone without privacy protection laws which left
behind in Japan's diet for more discussions after summer.
A news appeared on Jul 19 said that the Ministry of Public Management, Home
Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications would start testing of the network
from Jul 22, using actual Basic Resident Registry's record update data
including newly issued Resident Number. It also noted that transfer of the
Resident Registry data from local government owned computers to the
National server and the Prefectural servers would be completed by Jul 20.
This clearly means that all the residents in Japan already numbered and
huge databases that holding whole Japan's 125 million residents' data are
already up and running. If so, what the difference between before and after
Aug 5? A: Deleting the data of moving out people from the record. That's
all. And that sounds more likely just a little change in Local Government
staff's operation procedure at the request counter than launch of nation
wide computer networks.
Now this is the beginning of activation for Japan's national ID systems: 11
digit number national ID, networked resident record system based on the ID
numbers, and national ID card that based on contactless radio transaction
smartcard, with 32 bit CPU and co-processor supposed to handle crypto and
digital signature, which will be issued from 2003.
This status makes computer security specialists worried. If organized
crimes or foreign spy agents get access to one of these, that could be a
disaster. Clear and present danger is here now. World class crackers might
be difficult to ignore temptations to try their penetration skills on this
network because it is built on Windows NT/2000 servers and possibly MS SQL.
You got the idea?
Databases and National ID Networks
Japan has nearly 3300 cities, towns and villages and until a few month ago
their residents' records were all separated. But now the Basic Residents
Registers Network connected them all.
But this network has strange design structure. Data of residents' records
at cities, towns and villages in a prefecture are copied to the Prefectural
server. Then data of whole Japan's 125 million residents' records are
copied to the National server. So the records of Japan's every resident -
name, birth date, address, gender and ID number - are sitting in these
Also there is another strange structure. the National server which is
locating at Local Authorities Systems DEvelop Center, LASDEC for short, has
an additional offers residents' data for the administrative bodies of
central government. A funny thing is that the data once transferred to
administrative bodies would not be covered by Basic Residents Registry Law
which regulates the residents registry.
Japan's Privacy Bills
Japan would be having two privacy laws, the Personal Data Protection Law
and the Law Concerning Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs.
However, both are still in discussions and far from passing the diet,
because the diet ended today, Jul 31, even with 40 days extension to normal
Many pointed out both bills have problems. For the Personal Data Protection
bill, which originally designed as EU/OECD style protection of personal
information bill. But it had too many modification. And all the news media
are now opposing to strong consent requirement with data subjects and
punitive provisions of the bill.
More problematic is another. The bill for Law Concerning Access to
Information Held by Administrative Organs. This bill is supposed to be for
protection of personal information collected and held by government
administrative organs. However, many words set in the bill already
crippling the law itself. The bill does not have clear set of rules on
"collection limitation" of personal information. It also permits the
government to use anyone's personal information if needed and "Change of
Use Purpose" without notifying to data subject person. Plus, no penalty for
government stuff upon duty violations. If this bill was passed, the
government can use anyone's personal information for almost in any way, any
Missing Information and Secrecy Lovers
What do Japanese people have in mind about this national ID network? That
is another side of the problems. A poll done by Kyodo Communications on
June 30 brought up that 83.2% of Japanese did not know about this Basic
Residents Registers Network and they would be given numbers. Is this a
result of secrecy or just a lack of PR?
Since that time, news media started having more reporting. On Jul 22, Asahi
Newspaper did another poll and the result was drastically different. 59%
answered they heard the name of Basic Residents Registers Network, 86%
showed concern on privacy information leaks, and 76% answered that they
prefer to postpone the launch of the network.
The allies of four minority parties brought a bill to the diet that repeal
the Basic Residents Registers Network. (Japan has seven political parties.)
But it dead in a water without a discussion. A group of politicians in
leading conservative majority the Liberal Democratic Party tried to make up
another bill that postpone the launch. But it also dead even before
proposed on the last day of the diet by time constraint and their slow
action. And on Jul 31, the Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is still saying
the launch date is Aug 5 and go ahead.
Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications
Prime Minister's office
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