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Controversial national resident registry on line Monday

Date Posted: 2003-08-30

A controversial Japan-wide resident registry went on-line Monday, despite of fears of privacy leaks among some municipalities. The central government has been strongly promoting the system, citing that registered Japanese nationals can receive a copy of their resident registration record at any government office, anywhere in the country. The system was initially launched last August when local governments were connected online only to prefectures in which they were located, and to a state-run office that was specifically set up for the system.

Opponents of the system claim it enables the government to track each individual resident in the country, amounting to an effective gBig Brotherh tool. They also cite instance in the systems initial phase where the information on people has leaked to outsiders.

The registry is based on an 11-digit ID number assigned to every resident in the country. The registry contains the name, address, age, marriage status and other personal information that many say is not secure and can easily find its way to unauthorized hands.

In order to obtain an ID card that enables a resident to utilize the new system, one has to visit the local city or town office that issues the card. After a picture is taken, the office can issue the card in a few minutes.

However, the cardfs reception in Okinawa has been less than enthusiastic, according to officials. In Naha City Office, only seven people applied for the card on Monday, the first day they were available. Okinawa City had four applicants, but in Urasoe no one showed up.

Japanese lawyers are almost unanimously opposed to the new system. gThe system has to be stopped. It is clearly an invasion of peoplefs privacy, and the risk of the information getting into wrong hands is too high,h Tetsu Motohashi, the chairman of the Japanese Bar Association said.

At the same time, most people donft see much reason to go and get the ID card anytime soon. gI have never had an ID card, why would I go and get one now,h a middle aged woman shopping in Okinawa City said.

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