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Japan IDs All Its Citizens 382

Posted by kdawson
from the juki-box dept.
Edis Krad writes "While RealID in the US is a threat whose implementation is a ways in the future, the Japanese long ago implemented something similar; and there has been very little complaint raised about it. The Juki Net (Residents Registration Network — link in Japanese) has been silently developing since 1992. The system involves an 11-digit unique number to identify every citizen in Japan, and the data stored against that ID covers name, address, date of birth, and gender. Many Japanese citizens seem to be oblivious that such a government-run network exists. Juki Net had a spotlight shone on it recently because a number of citizens around the country sued against it, citing concerns of information misuse or leakage. And while an Osaka court ruled against the system, the Japanese Supreme Court has just ruled it is not unconstitutional, on the grounds that the data will be used in a bona-fide manner and there's no risk of leakage. While there is a longstanding registration system for us foreigners in Japan, what astonishes me is how the government can secretly implement such a system for its citizens, and how little concern the media and Japanese citizens in general display about the privacy implications."
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Japan IDs All Its Citizens

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  • by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot&jawtheshark,com> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:24PM (#22689736) Homepage Journal

    I live in continental Europe and I have an ID card. I know that exactly the same style of ID cards exists in at least Belgium and Germany. Why is it a problem? You get to use it only when to prove that you're actually you. Like when voting and when I did an exam to try to become a state servant (I failed, if you really want to know.)

    I also have a number that uniquely identifies me. It is the equivalent the social security number and it consists of my birthdate in format yyyymmdd followed by a three digit number. Unlike in the US, knowing this number means nothing. It's not secret... It isn't displayed on my ID card though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ILuvRamen (1026668)
      you're right, it's exactly like a social security number. Boy, the article sure is right. I hope they never implement that here in the US! We're just not ready for something like that!
      • by wish bot (265150) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:55PM (#22689896)
        I'd say almost everywhere has something like the. In Australia there is a Tax File Number system. You don't HAVE to provided it when say, opening a bank or starting a new job, but if you don't you're simply taxed at the highest rate. IIRC it replaced a plan to have a national ID system, and it seems to be working out pretty well on a privacy level because it is only related to tax and financial aspects, which is where these system are actually needed and useful.
        • by conufsed (650798) <alan@aussiege e k .net> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:30PM (#22690060)
          No its not at all. The only people who see your Tax File number are employers, banks/super funds (people who deal with your money), and the tax office. You don't have to supply your TFN to any of them, and you can calim back any extra tack paid when filing your tax return (where you still dont *have* to give you TFN, it just takes longer), although I admit for most people this isnt practical The scary identifier here is your drivers liscense number, the number of times I've had to supply it, had copies taken of it, is used for all sorts of credit things, and yet changes when you move interstate
    • Slashdot ID (Score:5, Funny)

      by LingNoi (1066278) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:39PM (#22689808)

      I also have a number that uniquely identifies me.
      Yeah, I have my own id too, it's 1066278.
    • by fbjon (692006) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:53PM (#22689878) Homepage Journal

      It is the equivalent the social security number and it consists of my birthdate in format yyyymmdd followed by a three digit number. Unlike in the US, knowing this number means nothing.
      Finland, and probably a lot of other countries have something very similar. Here it's ddmmyy-xxxc, where xxx is assigned in birth order with even for females and odd for males, c is a checksum character, and the dash can be (+|-|A) depending on century. These are assigned at birth, so everyone has one of these.

      I just don't see how the database in TFA is any different from this or the multitude of population registries that exist all over the world. Can someone enumerate the problems with this, please?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jawtheshark (198669) *

        where xxx is assigned in birth order with even for females and odd for males, c is a checksum character, and the dash can be (+|-|A) depending on century. These are assigned at birth, so everyone has one of these.

        Hehe, I didn't even want to go down in that level of detail... The nnn at the end of my number (which is oddly enough the phone code of my country) indicates the sex too. In the pattern xyx, is the y is odd, you're male, otherwhise you're female. All these numbers are indeed assigned at birth

      • by arivanov (12034) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @03:52AM (#22691202) Homepage
        Bulgaria is the same YYMMDDXXXC (Year, Month, Day, Unique ID, Checksum. It doubles up as social security number and a tax reference. It is also the reference used for any unpaid fines, property transfer, contracts, etc. This has the strange side effect that you have to pay all of your parking tickets before selling a car or buying a house for example. Otherwise you cannot register the contract with the notary and the transaction is null and void.

        It also now have a proper cryptographic ID format (non-mandatory and opt-in) and you can sign any document with a digital signature.

        You can also get any of your ID documents reissued in any police station in 24h and for 3h in Sofia. Everything is in the database.

        At the same time the level of privacy and the level of ID theft risk is way lower than in the US or UK. There are controls on who has access to the database and for what purposes. You do not have to send "sufficient identifying information" every few months just to get things done and digging through your rubbish does not yield sufficient identifying information to steal your identity.

        Overall - it is a classic example that there is nothing wrong with a correctly implemented national ID system. It can actually improve your privacy instead of eating into it.
    • by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:54PM (#22689892) Homepage Journal
      I AM an american, and all things aside, I don't really have a problem with a proper national ID system.

      All this paranoia about IDs and numbers and such, I have to ask:

      1. How many people over the age of 16 or so DON'T have a driver's license or state issued ID card? Heck, even students are getting them today in the form of school IDs. I was issued one in HS, never used it other than to get discounts at a few stores that had discounts for students. I had one for college. I have one for my job.

      The problem with using the SSN is that it was never designed to be an ID. There just aren't safeguards on it. By law it WASN'T to be used for all the stuff we use it for today. We'd be better off issuing seperate ID numbers for stuff like credit reports - consisting of the two digit state abbreviation then a set of characters determined by the state. Put it on the ID card. Then, for non-face transactions, have a PIN in place to prove it's yours. To reset the PIN, you'd have to go to the appropriate office that would verify your identity.
      • by garett_spencley (193892) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:14PM (#22689982) Journal
        My problem is that it's a single point of failure.

        It's my understanding that they want to tie bank accounts, driver's license, social insurance / security (I'm Canadian), passport etc. to one single card.

        If you lose this card you are completely fsck'd. And if someone wants to steal your identity all they have to do is either steal or forge your card. And before people say that forging cards is theoretically as difficult as forging a credit card I'll just point out that that's extremely little comfort. Forging credit cards is one of the most common credit card scams. All you need is an account number and the PIN and you can make a card to use in any ATM. It won't fool a person but it's not meant to. Since ATM machines can read credit cards all it needs is the magnetic stripe with the account # + PIN encoded on it. With systems designed in such a brain-dead way with a complete lack of thought put into security the idea of a real ID scares the crap out of me because idiots will be designing them and more idiots will be assuring the population that they're hack-proof.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by jawtheshark (198669) *

          That would really assume everyone would base themselves just on a number. It really isn't like that with national ID cards: you're not going to use an ID card with a picture that doesn't at least resemble you vaguely. Replacing a picture on a stolen card seems nigh to impossible to me. They aren't even comparable with credit cards. Apart from having an ID Card (one of the true ones, like implemented in Japan), I have a drivers license (with a different number) a social security card (with another numbe

          • by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:53PM (#22690152) Journal
            It really isn't like that with national ID cards: you're not going to use an ID card with a picture that doesn't at least resemble you vaguely. Replacing a picture on a stolen card seems nigh to impossible to me.

            Not so impossible my friend. [hackcanada.com]
          • by phulegart (997083) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @11:35PM (#22690336)
            Here's an Old story (that happened when I was there in Vegas).

            http://www.dmvnv.com/news/05-005.htm [dmvnv.com]

            The link I provided is from when they recovered the license making equipment and supplies that had been stolen from a DMV. Replacing a picture on an ID card isn't so impossible when you can just make another ID card from scratch with a new picture and someone else's information.

            Now, for a number of years in Virginia, your Social Security number was ALSO your driver's license number. Not only that, but your license was on paper, along with another additional information sheet... and all of it was kept in an OPEN clear plastic sleeve. This changed years ago, but as of The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, no state can use a SSN as a Driver's license number.

            Most states only require a piece of mail and a birth certificate, in order to get a state issued picture ID. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that you need a picture ID to get a picture ID. So how hard would it be to take someone ELSE's birth certificate and a piece of their mail, and get yourself a new Identity? Sure, there are other measures in place to make it more difficult to get a social security card re-issued, as well as getting into a bank account... but then again...

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/02/20/nyc-bank-lets-wrong-man-w_n_87647.html [huffingtonpost.com]

            There's a story about a man who went to his bank, and the teller assumed by his NAME only, that he was the same man who had opened up a business account with $5 million in it. You see, another man with the same name had indeed opened an account for his business with $5 million in it. The teller insisted that the account was indeed his (the wrong man with the same name), so he withdrew $2 million.

            Where were the Picture ID's then?

            I'm just adding, not so much refuting you.

            Retinal scanning is the way to go.

        • wrong idea (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nguy (1207026) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @04:26AM (#22691264)
          You have the wrong idea of how this works.

          It's my understanding that they want to tie bank accounts, driver's license, social insurance / security (I'm Canadian), passport etc. to one single card.

          Right now, everything is "tied" to your name. The problem is that for many people the name isn't unique. That's why a unique number is a good idea.

          If you lose this card you are completely fsck'd. And if someone wants to steal your identity all they have to do is either steal or forge your card.

          Huh? An id card merely says "John Smith (23984211038) was born on 4/1/1981, is a US citizen, looks like this, has this signature, and resides here." The cards are hard to forge. Such cards aren't used to replace ATM cards or anything else. They are used when you go to the bank in person and interact with a teller, in which case they are no worse than a driver's license. In the future, these cards are going to have more biometric identifiers (in addition to face and signature), meaning that they are even harder to forge and for people to pretend that they are you.

          Id cards are reasonable protection against identity theft. They are used when you need to identify yourself uniquely to another person, and for that purpose, they are a whole lot better than the alternatives (driver's licenses, birth certificates, utility bills, etc.). And if security is really important, people can require those alternative in addition.

          Now, there are some civil liberties arguments that one should not be able to identify people uniquely with ease. But those arguments are the opposite of yours: you want sound identification, you simply misunderstand how id cards provide it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Z00L00K (682162)
          It's not the idiots designing them that you shall worry about - it's the idiots checking the ID:s that you shall worry about.

          Put the responsibility of a fraud onto the person that checks the ID:s. And never forget that an ID card is just the key to unlock more verification data of an individual - it's no proof of validity itself.

          And you will still have a different linkage to your bank account etc. It's no real difference between a national and a state issued ID card. The state issued cards may actually

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr. Slippery (47854)

        1. How many people over the age of 16 or so DON'T have a driver's license or state issued ID card?

        Few, but some (I doubt many Amish have driver's licenses). But the ID card isn't the problem. It would be entirely possible for the state to issue an ID card which merely associated a name and date of birth with a photo, and had record keeping.

        The problem is the ID number assigned on that card, and the tracking database to which it forms the key, and the nefarious uses to which this database can and will

      • by mikael (484) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @11:00PM (#22690188)
        The big issue with ID cards isn't that you get an ID card with a serial number, your name and photograph on it. The big problem (at least in the UK), is that all the government databases will be linked together using this information; *EVERTHING* from medical records, property ownership, car ownership, travel history, current residential location, employer, purchase histories (thank you private databases).

        There is enough information available for any government employee to determine when you are on holiday or away on a business trip to know when to send their mates round to burgle your home.
        • by Firethorn (177587)
          I seem to remember some british guy almost dying because somebody else had used his identity for years to get medical care, and when he went for treatment there were a number of wtfs because his medical condition didn't match his records.

          He also had multiple problems because they kept assuming HE was the faker.

          Still, we run into problems like with the new national standards for drivers licenses - they're still possible to fake and or get fraudulently, but more difficult. But at the same time it imposed a m
          • I'm not from the UK but we have a similar system here in Oz. The ID cards are mainly to keep an eye on the providers, under the system the guy would not be refused treatment but the screw-up with records could be lethal. The only way to avoid such screw-ups with ANY medical records system is to talk to the patient, that's not always possible.

            Your anecdote mearly shows doctors are humans that have a greater opportunity to cause harm by behaving like arrogant fucks.
    • by maxume (22995) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:02PM (#22689926)
      Would you be comfortable if your card was part of an integrated system that included Belgium and Germany? That's the situation the US faces(in 3 ways: laws vary from state to state, the geographic area involved is large, and the number of people that a unified system needs to support is large). I'm not trying to say whether you should be uncomfortable or not, just pointing out that there are differences to account for when making the comparison.

      My biggest objection to programs that unify information and improve database access is that it encourages people to use them in situations where it isn't actually necessary, which then extends problems with that database access into situations where it shouldn't be necessary.

      An example would be the treatment that travelers who show identification at airports in the US receive - they are treated as being more 'legitimate' than people who are unwilling or unable to show id, and then subjected to a lower average level of scrutiny. The problem with this is that the cursory checks performed on the id aren't going to detect forgeries or falsely obtained official identification, making the whole process a pointless waste of time.

      Falsely obtained official identification also limit the usefulness of using any documentation to 'prove that you are actually you'. An entire system is limited in reliability by the least trustworthy bureaucrat working in it.

      Finally, a sort of joking example: Would you expect your wife to sleep with an imposter who had documents proving they were you, or would you expect her to scoff at the documents? Training people to trust the documents in similar situations is scary; I wish I had a better argument against it.
      • Training people to trust the documents in similar situations is scary; I wish I had a better argument against it.

        What's scary is people continuing to insist that such thing are Obviously Bad - despite not being able to come up with valid arguments against it that aren't handwaving/tinfoil hat fear mongering. It's very frightening that at the end of the day the Slashdot demographic, which in theory prides itself on it's collective intellect, aren't really much better than Christian fundies or other 'faith

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by maxume (22995)
          Where's your argument that they are obviously good? Do you check your wife's identification before you get into bed, or do you use some other trust mechanism?

          Inaction at least has parsimony on its side.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JimBobJoe (2758)
        An example would be the treatment that travelers who show identification at airports in the US receive - they are treated as being more 'legitimate' than people who are unwilling or unable to show id, and then subjected to a lower average level of scrutiny. The problem with this is that the cursory checks performed on the id aren't going to detect forgeries or falsely obtained official identification, making the whole process a pointless waste of time.

        I consider that a minor problem. The more major problem
    • ... the evil is in the linking of databases. In most european countries I know of, public databases are declared to an authority and must be used within a given scope. Linking is prohibited as a general rule. So you can have an ID, and be kind of privacy safe because your ID is supposed to only prove you are yourself. From what I read, in the US, as soon as someone collects data, public or private, it ends in databases that can be linked to others with very little oversight. This can lead in effect to massi

    • Where's the guy that's always posting stuff about "goodnight, Liberty" and "ah, my children" and "get out while you can?"

      Oh, that's right - this is Japan we're talking about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235)
      "I live in continental Europe and I have an ID card. I know that exactly the same style of ID cards exists in at least Belgium and Germany. Why is it a problem?"

      Ask the Jews... well, the ones the German government didn't murder, anyway.

      The innocent have nothing to hide, until the day the government turn them into criminals (making merely being alive a capital offence in the case of German Jews); then they suddenly realise why bloated government databases and ID cards were a really bad idea.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anne Honime (828246)

        I live in continental Europe and I have an ID card. I know that exactly the same style of ID cards exists in at least Belgium and Germany. Why is it a problem?

        Ask the Jews... well, the ones the German government didn't murder, anyway.

        In France, the situation was totaly opposite. During WWII, under the authority of René Carmille [wikipedia.org], the SSN was invented to help resistance rise an army if/when the allies would arrive. The germans and french "collaborateurs" never managed to lay their hands on the resulting files, thus had to resort to use many separate police files to hunt after the jews. IDs are only "useful" to nefarious purpose if they link to sensitive data. Name, DOB and gender are not sensitive. But if the governement can then t

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by indil (911425)

      Based only on the article description, Japanese citizens are being assigned ID numbers, not ID cards. Using an ID card to authenticate yourself works well because it probably has a photo and maybe a fingerprint on it, as well as some other personal information. If someone uses your ID card, it's easy to catch them. On the other hand, using an ID number alone to authenticate yourself is a terrible idea because it's a lot easier to match an ID number with a person than using their ID card. The ID number i

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MBC1977 (978793)
      To me it is a very big deal. Simply, I do not want to be tracked everywhere I go. My personal preference (probably a lot of people's personal preference). The government does not need to know what I am accessing or where i am going 24 /7. If I'm using a government service or such. Sure track THAT usage. But my travel habits, my literary preferences, my financal prowness (or lack thereof) is a PRIVATE matter.

      How can one be free, if I'm monitored all of the time, like I if I was in prison. Simple an
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by opec (755488) *
      it consists of my birthdate in format yyyymmdd followed by a three digit number.

      What if there are over 1,000 people with that birth date?
    • by JimBobJoe (2758)
      Why is it a problem?

      If it's not that big a deal, why do people have to be forced to have one?

      Having said that there are two national models for ID cards--either a country has terrible fraud or the country doesn't need the ID card in the first place.

      The Continental European model is the latter. Most of what the ID card does is done without problems without ID cards in other nations. The value of the card isn't all that much so there's no reason to try get it fraudulently. It's a bureaucratic document which
    • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @05:23AM (#22691410) Homepage Journal
      Norway has a similar system: birthdate + 5 digits. The number itself identifies only your birthdate and gender. However it's used as an unique key for the passport registers, taxes, bank accounts etc.. The register used for tax purposes also contains the current address of every Norwegian citizen living in Norway (and the foreign address of any Norwegian citizen still paying tax to Norway for whatever reason).

      The number is never meant to be sufficient for identification, and I've never seen it used as such in cases where there's a high fraud risk. When dealing with your bank, for example, you'll need to present an ID document. Many of those ID documents will have your national id number printed on it, to tie your identity to the number.

      It does potentially allow a lot of databases to be combined. However, at the same time Norway has some of the strictest data privacy laws in the world, and they are strictly enforced. In reality the cases of abuse have been extremely limited.

      Yes, it does mean that if you want to "disappear" from the government you can't legally do so - you risk a fine, though in reality the odds of being fined are small (if you evade taxes and they come looking for you and don't find you at your stated residence, perhaps, but then you're already in bigger trouble). Presumably if you badly want to hide from the government, a fine isn't really going to stop you.

      Yes, it also means the government have an easier job tieing your national id to your bank accounts and other registers to get a larger picture. However you'll find that in countries like the UK, that doesn't have a national ID number (yet), the government have become very sophisticated in terms of matching up data about people based on addresses. I know for a fact that HM Revenue & Customs (UK equivalent of the IRS) does this with a very high level of accuracy (same goes for financial institutions etc. - the assumption is that if they have your name and your last three years of addresses, they'll be able to build a continuous financial history, and it works extremely well without any kind of unique id number).

      An id number is just a convenience. If someone wants to combine data on you from disparate sources, they WILL manage to find ways of matching up the data. The only "benefit" you get from not having an id number is that it's slightly harder. But you also run the risk that it's far easier to make a mistake and tie your data to someone elses in ways that cause you problems.

      The id number is exactly the wrong thing to focus on. It's how data on you is combined, protected and analyzed that decide whether or not you have a privacy problem, not whether or not you have an id number. The id number just simplifies what's still a relatively trivial job of linking data together.

  • *Spit* Nyeeehh, all them dayum numbers look the same to me anyways.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:26PM (#22689742)
    Get real. You have to register yourself at your local city office, so the authorities already know all about you. You also have to have a medical insurance ID. You also need to be registered at the tax office.

    Privacy concerns in this day and age are ridiculous. You haven't any.

    Fighting the tide only works when you're on the shore. When you're at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, there isn't very much you can do.
  • by pizzach (1011925) <pizzach&gmail,com> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:27PM (#22689744) Homepage
    It most likely passed through with so few complaints because of how different the culture is there from here. Something like this might seem like the ridiculously obvious thing to do for them. You can't count on very body to think the same as Americans, for better and worse.
    • by mrbluze (1034940)

      It most likely passed through with so few complaints because of how different the culture is there from here.
      Perhaps. It's inevitable that we are all ending up on databases of some kind, because this is part of being a part of an organized society. Perhaps they realize that over there, but the real isse as I see it has always been "who gets to see the information and what information are they collecting" and not so much "am I registered somewhere".
    • Orwell was British (Score:4, Interesting)

      by starglider29a (719559) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:39PM (#22689816)
      I have often wondered what life would be like if we didn't have the phrases "Orwellian" or "mark of the beast" in our vocabulary? Is our life (in America) better, more free because of our mindset from reading Orwell? Or is it worse because our paranoia about becoming "orwellian" hampers real progress in using technology to improve our lives? Thus also "mark of the beast?" If it were not for the stigma (pun intended) of being subjugated to a totalitarian government/economic system, how much better could commerce and governance be with a "master table" of PIDs?

      Go for it: List the pros or cons of each scenario... But just remember, all those pros go away when the people controlling the database go bad. And they do.
    • by dabraun (626287)
      How on earth is this any different from social security numbers in the US anyway? They have at least those bits of data and most likely far, far more associated with them. Ok, there's a few citizens in this country who don't have one - but they can't work legally, can't get a credit card, have a hard time opening a bank account (in most places, you can argue this with the bank - if they aren't lending you anything they don't really need it - but they expect it and you're not going to have an easy time.)
  • Japan != USA/Europe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:29PM (#22689756) Homepage
    The Japanese don't have such an irrational fear of databases and information. In part because of their culture (which is not so contaminated with outside influences such as cultures that most slashdot readers might be familiar with) and also in part because they are not subject to the US constitution (gasp, shock). Here's an idea: perhaps the Japanese are able to determine which laws they want? I know, a radical idea - they didn't even consult the UN before implementing this.
    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:35PM (#22689792) Homepage Journal

      The Japanese don't have such an irrational fear of databases and information.
      The Japanese have an irrational acceptance of authority and conformism.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cutriss (262920)
        The Japanese also have an irrational sense of honor and trust in others. It probably never occurred to most of the everybodies who found out about this system that it would ever be misused.
      • by redelm (54142)
        Is any such acceptance necessarily irrational? Perhaps there are customs or restrictions that limit the abuse of authority. Utterly unamerican notions like honor and public-service, perhaps?
      • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75&yahoo,com> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:58PM (#22690178)
        The Japanese have an irrational acceptance of authority and conformism.

        What's so irrational about it? They didn't always have such an acceptance. This is a country that has existed for thousands of years, the first couple thousand of which were spent in a state of near-constant civil war without any centralized government. It was only after a strong central government was formed - and further refined with our help - that they became a prosperous, peaceful country with one of the highest standards of living in the world.

        Acceptance of authority and conformism has brought them peace, prosperity, high educational standards, low crime, good health and long life expectancy. They are no less "free" than we are, either. Their government does not wiretap their citizens' phone calls or endorse torture, and their taxes do not go to supporting a massive military industrial complex or a set of oil cartels. So in what way is their culture "irrational"? Especially in comparison to ours?

        Accept the fact that not everybody thinks the way Americans do. We are not the center of the universe and the way we think is not the "right" way.
        • by Shihar (153932) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:30AM (#22690584)
          Their obsession with conformity has also graced them with the highest suicide rate in the world.

          People miss the point of citing statistics like wealth and crime. Wealth and crime in it of themselves are worthless. Crime in particular is a silly stat to obsess over. If you want to eliminate crime, just knock everyone into a coma and keep them alive with feeding tubes. The reason why we want wealth and low crime is to bring about happiness. When your pursuit of these things fail to produce more happiness, you are failing. The real purpose of a government should be to bring about the greatest happiness for their citizens and sustain their happiness. All the wealth and low crime in the world won't make a damned bit of difference if you are so miserable you throw yourself off a bridge.

          If the point of life is happiness, the Japanese fail spectacularly. The Japanese are roughly the last people in this world we should be seeking to emulate. Don't get me wrong, a lot of great things come out of Japan that I have met have been great people, but the emulation of their miserable and unhappy society ranks roughly last on my list of things to do.
          • by wrook (134116) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:38AM (#22691606) Homepage
            Posts like this piss me off. First lets get some statistics right:

            http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suiciderates/en/ [who.int]

            Japan does not have the highest suicide rate in the world. It doesn't even come close. According to this study, in 1999 the suicide rate was 50.6 per 100,000 people. This compares to 21.7 for the US and 15.1 in the UK. So it seems very high. However, compared to Austria (37.1), Beglium (40.1), Finland (45.5), etc it's not exactly running away wild. Countries with internal political strife have considerably higher levels (nearing 100 for some countries). So it's bad, but not ridiculously bad.

            Now, let's take some other things into consideration. This data was taken in 1999 - 1 year after the collapse of several Japanese banks and the end of the "Job for life" policy in Japan. Yes, before 1998, nobody ever got laid off. Ever. In the history of the country. So in 1998 and 1999, people were getting laid off frequently. Hence suicide rates climbed dramatically.

            Second you have to consider the culture. Unlike the US and the UK, suicide is *accepted* in Japanese society. Just the other day the father of one of my colleagues killed himself. His wife had died earlier and he just couldn't cope with looking after himself. Japanese men, in general, are totally dependent upon their wives. Many of them die by their own hand right after their wives die. This is sad, but normal here. In fact, I heard about my colleague's father at the morning staff meeting. No social stigma to the event at all.

            So no matter what, suicide rates are going to be higher here than in the US or the UK. It's just seen as reasonable here that if you don't want to live, you don't have to (and personally I have a hard time coming up with a good argument against that).

            Now to tackle the other things you have said. Life in Japan is *not* hard. It is *not* strict. It is *not* sad. This has got to be one of the happiest places I've ever lived in my life (and I've lived int the US, Canada and the UK). Yes, people work hard. The saying here is that "Otoko wa shigoto", or "Man is work". But they *like* to work. I do too. Hell, most of the people here on /. don't have 9-5 jobs. They care about their work life and believe in what they are doing. In fact, they often find it strange that western people don't like their job. I'm not saying that all people in Japan like their job. But my experience is that their devotion to it leads to a higher level of enjoyment than what I've seen in other places I've worked.

            Also, Japanese life is *full* of play. Seriously, every single weekend there's a festival of something or other near by. And people grab their families and have a blast. In fact one of the most interesting things I found about living in Japan is that people take their children *everywhere*. And Japanese children by and large *extremely* happy. Again the culture is just different. School can be tough. But it doesn't have to be. You choose to work as hard as you want. You get rewarded for your efforts. Japanese schools are agressively streamed. So the functions of the schools (especially high school) is different depending on the composition of the students.

            For instance, in the high school where I work, the level is fairly low (bottom 20% in the prefecture I think). So the focus in school is on how to make a positive contribution to society. Seriously. Some of the kids take their tests and whatever seriously, but most don't. You *can* get to University from here, but only about 25% do. The rest will become fishermen, policemen, firemen, housewives/husbands, shop keepers, etc. These students are taught that their role is valuable. That they can make Japan better simply by making someone's day a little nicer.

            Japan is far from unhappy. I don't agree with everything that happens here. But I have to vehomently disagree with
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by roystgnr (4015) *
          It was only after a strong central government was formed - and further refined with our help

          Where by "further refined" you mean "tried to brutally conquer a hemisphere", and by "with our help" you mean "was effectively replaced after their surrender from years of war was finally forced via the nuclear incineration of two cities".

          This is not a shining historical beacon to the values of conformism and obedience to authority.

          Your American examples are effective at illustrating the point that the Japanese aren'
    • by kmac06 (608921)

      [...]and also in part because they are not subject to the US constitution (gasp, shock). Here's an idea: perhaps the Japanese are able to determine which laws they want?
      Or perhaps the Japanese politicians are able to determine which laws they want regardless of basic rights the people want, since said rights are NOT outlined in their Constitution.
    • by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:58PM (#22690174)
      Cultural contamination? They had their constitution written for them by the United States military, their Diet was first borrowed from the Germans and then reformed into a British style, their school system is modeled after the German, and their current pacifistic ways were forced upon them by external powers as well. In daily life, they're inundated with western pop culture. Granted, the Japanese core is still largely the same, but their youth is moving in liberal directions and the older generation are blaming the West for it. Some of the most recent annoyances for the government include unionization and public demonstration. In Osaka, for example, the UN's International Labor Organization is backing the teacher's union, which is suing the board of education based on what they believe to be an unconstitutional review system (basically, teachers' salaries and tenure are determined by a letter grade, and the grounds for the grade they receive are kept secret, and there is no way for the teacher to dispute or appeal the results).

      Despite the surface changes, the Japanese government operates in pretty much the same way it always has; a few people in power who hand the laws down to the common folk and the common folk are expected to bear it. Theoretically, these people in power are supposed to have the good of the people in mind, but the reality differs somewhat. The Japanese people have an inherent faith in their government, although that faith is eroding rapidly in recent years; hence the rapid change of prime ministers since Koizumi.
      • Rapid change? You mean Obuchi, Mori, et al? And the thought that outsiders who understand nothing of the Japanese culture (such as the UN) should be kept out is alien, eh? No no, let's all let the UN decide things for us, after all, they're entirely democratic as well, and totally unbiased.
  • we already have this here in the states with a certain nine-digit every gets at birth.

    stupid japanese have to go off a create a eleven-digit number just to show us up.
  • by davecrusoe (861547) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:31PM (#22689766) Homepage

    In reading this story, I wonder about how individuals raised in cultures different than my own (read: USA) view issues of personal privacy vs. common good. Broadly speaking, we in the states tend to defend a "rights" theory; that our personal rights can, in some cases, trump the good of society. However, the idea of a populace giving in some personal rights for those of the supposed good lies on the spectrum of utilitarianism; that by putting in place a universal ID, it's necessary to give up some personal rights, in order to protect the largest number of people.

    But, I'd be interested to know about how others compare this issue to the various historical theories of ethics...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      that our personal rights can, in some cases, trump the good of society.

      Maybe that's the way some people see it in the USA. I see it as personal rights being a requirement for the long-term good of society. That while short-term violations of rights may appear to yield short-term benefits for "the good of society," in the long-term those violations do a net harm to society.

      I think its summed up well in the saying about Benito Mussolini -- "At least he made the trains run on time!"

    • In reading this story, I wonder about how individuals raised in cultures different than my own (read: USA) view issues of personal privacy vs. common good.

      I'd wonder, too, but I'm still stuck on why the girls all have their bloodtypes in their photobooks [wikipedia.org].

      Or why their fans would want to know.

      Or why I know so much about photobooks.

      Or notice the bloodtype.
  • And while an Osaka court ruled against the system, the Japanese Supreme Court has just ruled it is not unconstitutional, on the grounds that the data will be used in a bona-fide manner and there's no risk of leakage.

    Now that's a bit unrealistic, wouldn't you say? No matter how much security and other preventative measures you put up, isn't in unrealistic to say that there is zero chance of a break in?

    To me, the biggest scare of a national ID is the idea that we're putting all personal info in one dat

  • by AdamHaun (43173) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:38PM (#22689806) Journal
    You're astonished that a completely different culture has different standards for privacy? The modern American conception of privacy is hardly universal, and it wasn't too long ago that things like your shopping habits couldn't be private because the people who sold to you all knew you personally.

    • and it wasn't too long ago that things like your shopping habits couldn't be private because the people who sold to you all knew you personally.

      True. But there's a big difference between your neighbourhood grocer / friend knowing what kind of food you eat and having a database filled with 5 years worth of indexed / searcheable shopping history that can be handed over to any interested party that you don't even know about.
    • The modern American conception of privacy is hardly universal

      Heck, it isn't even universal in America itself.
  • I never bought into the idea that of different cultural standards for different cultures. I'm a secular leftist. I say privacy issues effect all Terrans and culture is irrelevant. Now. Keep in mind, I am a fan of the Japanese. Yes this is a privacy issue. Yes, the Japanese people should resist it. Culture is absolutely irrelevant on issues like this. Using culture is an excuse for bad behavior.
    All Terrans of all the world should have standards of privacy, due process, autonomy, those sorts of things. I'm no
    • So who defines what those rights are? You?

      If you believe that rights are absolute, you must present who defines what they are- that leads into a subjective bias imposed by the person doing the definition.

      If you believe that rights are subjective but defined by the entire population group, that theory propagates down to any small population group that is self-lead- like say, a state government.

      • Its one of those things kinda like the definition of Porn; I know it when I see it. I'm not that brilliant an orator. And no, I don't think I'm qualified to know what those rights are. I will leave that for greater minds. But we all seem to know Human rights violations when we see them.
  • why is there a kneejerk attitude towards a national in the usa?. a national id seems rather prudent, a cost and effort saving initiative. most every other modern western democracy has one. it's just a good, modest idea. really

    and yet you encounter this sort of hysteria like it iss satan himself doling out the mark of the beast and we will all be under the boot of fascism if we have a national id. it really doesn't make any sense. we already have drivers licenses

    the issue is not that a national id is some ma
  • Is that all? You give those out any time you buy alcohol.
  • by alriode (1161299) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:55PM (#22689900) Homepage
    As for us in Costa Rica (not Puerto Rico), in Central America (in the middle of the whole continent), an ID system called "cédula de identidad" has been used since some decades ago for all citizens (a Costa Rican is a citizen once he/she is 18 years old). A 9-digits number is related with full name, gender, date and place of birth. Recent "cedulas" even include a version of one's signature (recollected by a writing tablet). It is an necessary ID for every kind of (bureaucratic) transactions (voting at the national and local elections, signing in for a bank account, obtaining a driver licence, etc.). Most of us are not concerned about the privacy issue (specially because the Government itself isn't Orwellian at all).
  • by x00101010x (631764) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:58PM (#22689910) Homepage
    Seriously people, it's the 21st century, the information age. Privacy does not exist. You WILL give your information to banks, governments, health care agencies, employers, etc. in order to function in this world. They in turn will eventually fsck up and disclose said information publicly. I'm in favor of regulations that provide recourse and stiff penalties for organizations that mishandle information. However, they won't always be enforcible and lobbyists will put in loop holes making them ineffective, that's just reality. In the information age, your identity is your face. You don't walk down the street wearing a mask, do you? No, you'd look pretty silly. Do you yell at the shop clerk to not look at your face? No, you'd be considered rude. Just shut up and get used to it. Your identity is already public. Your personal information is likely to end up public. The best thing you can do is keep up to date on your credit profile and not be an idiot about spreading your information any more than you must.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015)
      Penalties for misuse of aggregated personal information don't help the individuals who were violated. They're hosed whether the perpetrators are penalized or not. That's the problem, and personally I'm against data aggregation. The benefits to organizations (whether governmental or private-sector) of massive databases are obvious: they're less so when it comes to private citizens. They gain power and more of our money, and what to we get? Stalkers, identity thieves, targeted advertising, a host of things we
  • In America, at least, we've had government records for a very long time on our citizens. You have to. Even court records have to be kept on people who've been brough to trial, convicted, sued, etc. Why wouldn't you want a unique ID number for each citizen and legal immigrant? Think of how much easier it'd be to tell TSA to piss off if the social security number had been turned into the Federal Identification Number. They tell you you're a terrorist, you tell them to check the FIN on the list, and lo and beh
  • by Carbon Copied (909743) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:08PM (#22689956)
    If you want to sign up to your own ID card system, fine, I have no problem with that whatsoever.

    The problem is, if I don't want to sign up with your system, you get to put me in jail.
    This is downright wrong and against the basic right that all human beings have to stay silent about their personal information.

    Not to mention, any time in human history where ID schemes and mandatory databases have been misused they used exactly the same "what could go wrong/what have you got to hide" reasoning as they are using now.

    Godwin's law be damned, how do you think the Nazi government knew where all the jews lived when they started handing out arm bands and shipping them to concentration camps?

    The point isn't what today's government in today's climate will do with it. The point is that no organization should be given that much unchecked power to mandate citizens to give up their private information when it has never been proven that a government is immune to corruption and incompetence.

    Governments have proven themselves untrustworthy with this level of information on the general public.

    The UK government lost 28 million peoples private information LAST YEAR alone.

    But the government has proven itself competent and reliable in every other aspect of its business so I guess we should trust it on this one.....

    yeesh

    Sources :

    http://www.betanews.com/article/UK_government_loses_data_on_as_many_as_25_million_people/1195687877 [betanews.com]
    http://www.news.com/U.K.-government-loses-data-on-driving-test-candidates/2100-1029_3-6223292.html [news.com]
    http://www.news.com/U.K.-government-loses-pensioner-data/2100-1029_3-6223493.html [news.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by charlieman (972526)
      Yes Mr. 909743 you are right!

      We should eliminate lastnames as well since they can relate people to other people. That's very risky in terms of privacy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekyMD (812672)
      In the US we don't have a national ID system, and we didn't in 1938 either. But that didn't stop the Japanese internment [wikipedia.org]. Nor did it stop the government from rapidly creating a monstrosity of a system which indexed [wikipedia.org] all possible threats to the government living on American soil from 1939 to 1978.

      That was in 1938 when everything was still pen and paper and the government couldn't just pressure any given large corporation for their database of information. Its really silly to assume that something lik
  • 39.296.090-4 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:14PM (#22689980) Journal
    that's the number on my registration card. it was issued when i registered and had my fingerprints taken in the public security office here in sao paulo.

    and you know what ? IS NOT A BIG DEAL.

    get over it, USians. the govt already know who you are. how many databases you're registered on ? DMV, social security, schools permanent records, with the military, and so on.

    if the govt is not abusing all that info, then a national ID will be just a formality without adding any risk.

    now, if they ARE using all the info they already have against the population, a new database won't make any difference. and you people should seriously start considering a revolution.
  • by thefear (1011449) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:20PM (#22690006) Homepage
    My first thought was 'how could a country intelligently design all of its citizens'
  • by Buscape (1153545)
    Americans don't understand being held accountable for their actions hence they're going to fight being identifiable until they've been properly schooled in accountability. Welcome to school children. This is going to be painful.
  • by Gorimek (61128) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:39PM (#22690086) Homepage
    I'm something as odd as a hardcore libertarian Swede. I moved to Silicon Valley in 1995, in small part because of that.

    Like most other developed nations, Sweden has a system much like Japan's, that keeps track of who people are where they live. This results in vastly superior service to the citizens. You don't have to register to vote, you can get a passport in under an hour, and in general you only have to tell one governmental agency something once, and the others will also get the information on a need-to-know basis.

    And here is my point:

    The US government already knows everything about you. They even read your email and tap your phone at will. But since they have to pretend not to, we have to keep sending in the same information again and again, things take forever and are often done wrong. We have the worst of both worlds, with little privacy and little functioning services.

    Americans fight this kind of system thinking they're protecting privacy. They're not. Their privacy is long gone, and they're just wasting their effort. If you have the energy to fight for freedom, use it where it counts. This, unfortunately, is not such a place.
  • Perhaps the Japanese have a little more faith in their government. Of course, the fact that a bureaucrat caught selling data, cheating or making a mess of things is likely to commit suicide in some spectacularly messy fashion might have something to do with this.

    When government officials in the US are caught lying, cheating and stealing, they simply resign and start officially working for Halliburton.

  • by k1mgy (980756)
    The difference is that the Japanese government actually cares about and cares for its citizens - all of them. The proof is everywhere: national health insurance; immediate and effective disaster response; a public transportation system second-to-none; national renewable initiatives. Sure, there are fowl ups and there are crooks, but compared to the criminal maladministration in the US, I'd take Japanese government any day, and I'd gladly sign up and participate in a national ID. The difference is trust.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I've seen a lot of dismissal of cultural differences here, and each and every one of them misses the point. Everything from the way they use their kitchen utensils to the efficiency of their mass transit to the way their government works flows from the culture of the people. Despite sixty years of Western influence (and yes, I do know about Commodore Perry in the mid 1800's), Japan's culture is still based on the same principles that it was two hundred years ago--among them being honor, respect, selflessn
  • It seems many of the comments here are from people taking the position that it is. . .

    A) Prudent and Good for a government to track every citizen individually.

    B) Prudent and Good to be rude and abusive in the manner in which they express their support of such a system.

    (Does anybody else note the disturbing irony in this?)

    In any case, I have two things to say in response. . .

    1) Such a system would indeed be Prudent and Good if governments could be trusted.

    2) NO government can be trusted.

    That is all.

    -FL

  • This is a country whose stock in trade is conformity.
    Interesting given the extraordinary difficulty for outsiders to gain citizenship anyway.

  • Part of the basis of the decision was that "since there is a legal framework for punishing any leakage of data, there is no concern of data leakage occurring" (p10-11); this suggests to me that if such leakage does occur (and one of the affected parties is actually bothered, since the courts won't let you sue on someone else's behalf), this has a potential to be overturned later. They also explicitly state (p12) that the clause making misuse illegal overrides the clause allowing municipalities to change th

  • what astonishes me is how the government can secretly implement such a system for its citizens, and how little concern the media and Japanese citizens in general display about the privacy implications.

    It astonishes you that the millions of citizens of Japan don't agree with the Slashdot privacy uber alles mentality?
  • Ach (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why do people have such a problem with the government having the same information we give away to credit card companies and banks all the time?
  • by kamenr (67603) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:20AM (#22690538) Homepage
    The government tip-toes around in slippers regarding issues like this, instead of putting on the jackboots the way the Americans or British do.

    Jukinet has been up and running for years, but the central government has been unable to force take-up, just as they cannot enforce take-up of the so-called compulsory social security or health care systems, or just as NHK cannot force people to pay the compulsory subscription. If Japan were the USA they would just put a gun to people's heads, so-to-speak, and enforce participation.

    The way it has worked up to now is that individuals elect to sign up for the Jukinet smart card, and less than two percent of the population has done this. There's no actual requirement anywhere to get one, and it seems to be regarded as a slight potential convenience.

    My theory is that there are are at least a couple reasons why the Japaneese government seems so ineffective in putting teeth into enforcement of compliance with such systems.

    1) There is a lingering sense of respect for "rights of the individual" that remains since the various reforms after the War, and it's tied in with left wing politics. This is why it's taken 30 years to build the second runway at Narita airport.

    2) Second reason is bureacratic turf wars. Jukinet is the pet project of one not-particularly-powerful ministry, and they do not have the power to enforce take-up, although they certainly did manage to get to the Supreme Court in this case (which has handed down a judgment that is rather short-sighted about privacy, given the history of privacy problems that we have seen in Japan in recent years).

    In short, Japan has all the privacy problems of other developed countries (and perhaps even more so, given the ubiquitous video surveillance), but has soft spots in its central adminstration in unexpected places.

    Incidentally, if it were my job to increase Jukinet card takeup, I would offer people the option of getting them in a design theme of Hello Kitty, or Snoopy, or Audrey Hepburn or something such, and then add electronic money and/or train pass functionality, slightly discounted. WHOOOOOSH, massive take-up overnight.
  • by SamP2 (1097897) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @03:20AM (#22691132)
    Operator : "Thank you for calling Pizza Hut . May I have your order?"
    Customer: "Hello, can I order.."
    Operator : "Can I have your multi purpose card number first, Sir?"
    Customer: "It's eh..., hold on....6102049998-45-54610"
    Operator : "OK... you're... Mr. Sheehan and you're calling from 17 Meadow Drive. Your home number is 494 2366, your office 745 2302 and your mobile is 014 266 2566. Would you like to have the delivery made to 17 Meadow Drive?
    Customer: "Yes, how did you get all my phone numbers?"
    Operator : "We are connected to the system Sir"
    Customer: "May I order your Seafood Pizza..."
    Operator : "That's not a good idea Sir"
    Customer: "How come?"
    Operator : "According to your medical records, you have high blood pressure and even higher cholesterol level Sir"
    Customer: "What?... What do you recommend then?"
    Operator : "Try our Low Fat Soybean Yogurt Pizza.You'll like it"
    Customer: "How do you know for sure?" Operator : "You borrowed a book entitled "Popular Soybean Yogurt Dishes" from the National Library last week Sir"
    Customer: "OK I give up... Give me three family sized ones then, how much will that cost?
    Operator : "That should be enough for your family of 10, Sir. The total is $ 49.99
    Customer: "Can I pay by credit card?"
    Operator : "I'm afraid you have to pay us cash, Sir. Your credit card is over the limit and you're owing your bank $3720.55 since October last year"
    Operator : "That's not including the late payment charges on your housing loan Sir.
    Customer: "I guess I have to run to the neighborhood ATM and withdraw Some cash before your guy arrives"
    Operator : "You can't do that Sir. Based on the records, you've reached your daily limit on machine withdrawal today"
    Customer: "Never mind just send the pizzas, I'll have the cash ready. How long is it gonna take anyway?"
    Operator : "About 45 minutes Sir, but if you can't wait you can always come and collect it on your motorcycle..."
    Customer: " What the..?"
    Operator : "According to the details in system, you own a Harley,...registration number E1123..."
    Customer: "@#%/$@&?#"
    Operator : "Better watch your language Sir. Remember on 15th July 1987 You were convicted of using abusive language to a policeman...
    Customer:( Speechless)
    Operator : "Is there anything else Sir?"
    Customer: "Nothing... by the way... aren't you giving me that 3 free bottles of Pepsi as advertised?"
    Operator : "We normally would Sir, but based on your records you're also diabetic....... "
  • Inevitable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wordplay (54438) <geo@snarksoft.com> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:22AM (#22691570)
    Anonymity is just security via obscurity applied to people. Any IT person worth a damn knows security via obscurity is a terrible methodology; once broken, it can never be put back together, and worse, there's no way to know when it's been broken. Eventually, someone will come up with a way to correlate even the most obfuscated and separated data, and they may or may not tell you that they can do it.

    Instead, rely on proven methods like encryption, legal assurances, and simple discretion about what you put in the public eye, with an expectation that public starts where your walls end. We're approaching a small-town expectation of privacy, applied globally. You can't hide from your neighbor.

Do not simplify the design of a program if a way can be found to make it complex and wonderful.

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