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Nobuhiko Sugiura

Nobuhiko Sugiura [Profile]

What Needs to Be Considered When Introducing the Common National ID Number System

Nobuhiko Sugiura
Professor of Financial law, IT law, Graduate School of Strategic Management, Chuo University

Financial reconstruction is the main objective.

The government has officially decided to introduce common ID numbers to identify every single citizen on December 3rd, 2010. The two types of number systems that the government has examined are the numbering system that involves schemes such as taxes and social security, and a national ID system, which is for combining administrative services. By matching (integrating) both types, a common database can be built to manage all kinds of personal information-not only from tax and social security schemes, but also driver's licenses, health insurance cards, passports, employee pension books, and seal registration certificates-with a single piece of ID in an integrated fashion. This is expected to accelerate horizontal coalition in vertically-structured administration system, bring about efficiency in public administration as well as impartiality in tax levying throughout all administration systems and as a result, contribute largely to financial reconstruction. For the time being, there should be discussions focusing on the introduction of a numbering system that involves social and tax issues, which need to be addressed immediately. Furthermore, the combining of private ID numbers such as bank account numbers, medical record numbers kept by medical institutions, and customer numbers kept by companies for enhancing convenience is also under consideration. This means that the examination is scheduled to get underway for a system where services can be integrated by matching private ID numbers and national ID numbers.

Such impositions or semi-compulsory introductions of common national ID numbers have already started to take place in countries such as South Korea and some European nations in the late 1990's, and now the time has come, though a little belated, for Japan to consider the introduction of a similar system.

How should the numbering system be introduced?

There are, however, many who are skeptical about the government's plan to introduce the common national ID system by 2014. This is because, considering the fact that they may only be numbers, data such as codes and addresses that correspond with the new numbers currently under consideration-which are matched with resident register codes-can be changed through applications by citizens. When considering that new numbers are issued upon rigorous identity checks, this will be extremely difficult and time consuming. There are even those of the opinion that, depending on the situation, private IDs (such as bank account numbers and those used in Internet shopping) would be easier to use since they have already undergone identity checks. There are also those who believe that the process should begin with inquiries on issues such as eligibility for application and electronic issues of residence registries and that the role of common ID numbers should be limited to confirming the existence and intentions of applicants, considering the possibilities of the common ID numbering system. This is because the name-gathering issue concerning data such as pension records arose due to the role of numbers, where basic pension numbers are used for distinguishing and identifying, not being fulfilled. It is necessary to consider what kind of role the common ID number system is to play and gradually work on the designing of a system that will meet its original purpose and be easy to use as well.

Issues surrounding personal information protection, identification, etc.

Citizens grow concerned every time the subject of common ID numbers arises because of past improprieties such as information leaks and uses of information for purposes other than the original intent when the Basic Resident Registration was introduced and because of speculation that personal profiles were created with accumulated data. There is also the fear that common ID numbers, which are used widely and seem unchangeable, can easily be used for activities such as behavioral tracking and impersonation. If officials of administrative agencies were able to view data such as medical records, amounts of taxes paid, and even amounts of pension payments received all in one glance due to information linkages in administrative agencies with common ID numbers, this would mean that the personal information protection issue has been completely ignored. In order to keep something like this from happening, the amount of information that is going to be matched through common ID numbers and compliance with this rule must be monitored.

Furthermore, in order to spread this sharing of information, issues such as (1) the standardizing of personal information protection policies individually established by 1,800 local governments, (2) the unification of identity verification standards stipulated by laws such as acts on the Act on Prevention of Criminal Proceeds, the Mobile Phone's Improper Use Prevention Act, and the Law Concerning Digital Signature Certification of Local Public Entity (Public Individual Certification Law), and (3) consistency with the Law Concerning Electronic Signatures and Certification Services and IT Comprehensive Law must be considered.

For creating a reliable framework

In response to the concerns above, the government has already established specialized agencies, which are third-party bodies, and is considering having them monitor information linkages in each administrative field. Depending on the circumstances, they may be utilized for monitoring not only the numbering system, but possibly the entire electronic government structure as well. However, it is important not only to recruit personnel with knowledge in areas such as IT and public administration, but also to make sure that they are organizations that are independent from all ministries and agencies. It then becomes necessary to bind attribute providers and attribute users together in order to uphold the common ID number system, to establish a framework of trust that can incorporate the asymmetry of the information that is shared between them, to decide who will administer this, and to consider how legal systems that include such establishment requirements should be run.

In addition, the concepts of the Open Identity Trust Framework have already been introduced in the National Strategy for Trusted Identities, which was issued by the U.S. government in June 2010, and the development of a strategy for decreasing threats in server space and increasing privacy protection when using digital identities is being fostered. Because the IT society is not limited by national boundaries, it is imperative that we accurately grasp the trends and views of foreign countries and refer to them when holding discussions in our country.

As can be seen from the above, there are still many points to consider before actually introducing common national ID numbers. As the determining factor of whether or not e-governance will be actualized in our country, these problems will bring about a significant change and impact in discussions on privacy. That is why it is necessary for each and every citizen to have a keen interest in them and to keep an eye on the orientation of the discussions.

Nobuhiko Sugiura
Professor of Financial law, IT law, Graduate School of Strategic Management, Chuo University
Born in 1966. Graduated from the Graduate School of Law, Chuo University in 1989. Joined the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation the same year. Appointed to current post in 2008 after serving as a researcher at the Financial Research Center of the Financial Services Agency and as the senior legal advisor at J.P. Morgan Securities. Studied at Chuo Graduate School during services completed the Doctoral Course of the Graduate School of Law, Chuo University with a major in Civil Law in 2004. Doctor (law). Specializes in financial law, IT law, and corporate compliance theory, and legal systems concerning online financial transactions. Conducts research on the shape of financial regulations since entering the financial crisis as an Academic Panel member of the International Centre for Financial Regulation as well as research on the national ID system as an advisor to OpenID Foundation Japan. Publications include Innovations in Payment Services [Kessai Service No Innovation] (DIAMOND, Inc., 2010), Mobile Value Business [Mobairu Baryu Bijinesu] (CHUOKEIZAI-SHA, Inc., 2008).