Japan's Juki Net Not Really Dealing with Private Information
Hiroshi NAKAJIMA (Professor, GLOCOM)
Japan's newly introduced "national resident registry network system" (Juki Net) is somewhat like an unwanted child. It has been attacked by misunderstandings and prejudice and started with its hands tied tightly. In my opinion, this should be one of the basic systems in networked society, and might be quite useful for our daily life. However, it seems likely to be a waste of a potentially useful system, because the public cannot appreciate its merit due to false perceptions resulting from anachronistic skepticism and distrust about the system.
From the beginning there have been a number of misunderstandings about Juki Net. One of the most notable is that the Juki Net would be dealing with purely private information. Actually it is dealing only with four kinds of basic information: name, address, birthdate and sex. A certain prefectural governor is conducting an experiment to attempt to break into Juki Net like a hacker in order to test the security of the system. But if he succeeds, all he might get is someone's name, address, birthdate and sex.
Every year I receive a large number of new year's greeting cards, which show not only the sender's name and address but also his or her family members' information including age and sex. Juki Net is somewhat like these new year's cards. Many people are making public such information, sometimes including telephone numbers and mail addresses in the case of new year's cards. Of course, some people may not like to make such information public, but it would be unreasonable if this minority could block the building of fundamentals for our network society.
When we open a bank account or join a club such as a rental video shop membership we are asked to provide some kind of identification, usually a driver's license, which is often photocopied by others. A driver's license shows not only the four kinds of information mentioned above but also other kinds of information such as official permanent ("honseki") address. In many shops, part-time workers are handling the identification process. I wonder why those who oppose Juki Net do not seem to show any concern about this situation. I have not yet heard of anyone who protested the presentation of driver's licenses at rental video shops.
Juki Net, if used properly, could help us lead very fruitful lives. It is about time for us to discuss seriously and objectively what kind of framework is appropriate and how to use it in order to avoid unauthorized use of Juki Net. The governor who is wasting tax payers' money in his campaign against Juki Net should think twice.
(The original Japanese article was posted at the GLOCOM Juki Net Research Forum: http://www.juki-net.jp/opinion/001/)