Japan to Implement National ID Numbers For All Residents

Previously implemented a different system a decade ago



A bill to set up a national identification number system in Japan cleared the upper house of parliament (the Diet) after passing the lower house last month. The Emperor's "approval" of legislation is purely symbolic so the bill is set to become law. From the Japan Times:

The system, to be introduced in January 2016, will assign a "my number" to each citizen starting around fall 2015 to integrate all of their financial information. This is expected to help public offices collect information more accurately and make it easier to distribute welfare benefits and tax credits to citizens.

Individual ID numbers will be assigned to foreign residents as well, except for short-term visitors.

It's actually not the first time Japan has dabbled with a national ID number system. A March op-ed from Sentaku Magazine (via the Japan Times) explains concerns the "my number" system was devised as a boon for the IT industry:

Koji Ishimura, a professor of tax laws at Hakuoh University, says it would be anachronistic for Japan to introduce a new national ID numbering system at a time when other countries are giving such systems a second look [for privacy and security reasons].

"I cannot think of anything other than the interests of the IT industry as a factor in pushing such a scheme," he says, "because once it is launched, the industry will enjoy enormous business opportunities, larger than those created by the Basic Resident Register Network system" (started in 2002), which assigns an 11-digit number to every citizen.

This BRRN system, which cost the government a huge sum of money, was initially hailed as the way to improve social security services, but in reality it has proved to be of little value.

As if oblivious to this failure, the government is now trying to introduce an entirely new numbering system on top of the existing BRRN. This has led a well-informed journalist to criticize the government's scheme as a "wasteful public works project" that will necessitate enormous yearly maintenance costs, which in turn will benefit only the IT industry.

Wikipedia identifies identity numbers in at least 66 countries. In America, the Social Security number's become a de facto ID, and helps fuel identity theft, which cost Americans more than $1 billion in 2011.

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  1. Where’s my minarchy?

  2. Without some sort of unique identifier for people (numeric or otherwise) the credit system we have today would be impossible. It’s the idiots who used SSNs as student ID numbers and drivers license numbers who deserve the blame, not the SSN itself.

    1. I wonder how many people are born on the same day with the same name and the same parents.

      Well, I guess if George Foreman had triplets the answer would be the same as the number of licks to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop.

      1. But if you use DOB +name + parents names as your unique identifier you have the same problems with theft, you’ve just switched the object the thieves go after.

        1. And required the thief to gather more data than a *single* number that leads the thief to all the other personal identifying info records.

          1. They’d always appear together on documents in this hypothetical system (and could be phished together of course), so I don’t see how that provides a barrier. The fact that the SSN is actually three numbers doesn’t make it any harder to steal, since they always appear together.

            1. But they don’t – my DL # is (no longer) my SSN and doesn’t have my address on it.

              Even the military is going away from using SSN’s as identifiers now – they’re already issuing ID without SSN and are expected to (at some point in the near future) go back to issuing their own ID numbers (like they did waaaaay back when).

              I didn’t use my SSN when registering for college last year.

              There’s a lot of people who are no longer using SSN’s as an identifier because any value they gain (in simplicity or efficiency) is overshadowed by the dangers of using it.

              In most things in life there is no need to maintain continuity over time and distance.

              And the SSN being 3 numbers is kind of irrelevant since no-one (except maybe the SSN administration itself) uses anything less than the whole thing.

    2. Uh, moron – *your* precious state required that for most of my life.

      It was only with the rise of identity theft that the foolishness of a single identifier tying all of your records together was finally recognized BY THE GOVERNMENT.

      And while a single identifier *may* be required (I disagree, but whatever) for the credit system we have *today*, its NOT required to have a credit system, as evidenced by the fact that the western world had a robust credit system long before SSN’s became routine.

      1. Yes, but the old credit system (assuming you’re talking about pre-80s, which is the earliest I can remember) was sloooooow. It’s also easy to have no id theft when there isn’t an internet…

        I take no blame for the stupidity of the govt past present or yet to come; I’m the most govt-skeptical person in my social mileau. But don’t blame the number.

        1. Then what should I blame if no the number that had become a de-facto universal ID because *every* interaction with government required it.

          1. Blame the government.

    3. The credit system we have today is a good thing? With our wonderful SSN system, every single time I pull my credit report I find things (both good and bad) that not only aren’t me, they couldn’t even be reasonably shown as having ever maybe been me. Its not even identity theft, its just the normal and expected screwups of people relying on a number to identify people, while other millions of people who couldn’t care less about any of it and might be having an off day key in those magic numbers by the billions. I’m not seeing how the “magic ID number” system is of benefit to anyone other than the nitwits who run the credit reporting agencies.

      1. What do you propose in its place? Names aren’t unique and can be just as easily (perhaps more easily) be screwed up by typos.

        1. How’s about a subscription system where you sign up for one or more loan services and they issue their own individual ID and pool info on customers?

          ID numbers that are not directly linked to the SSN.

          1. Not sure how that would work. How does bank A know whether the John Smith applying for credit from them is the same John Smith who defaulted on a loan from bank B if the identifiers are always different for each bank?

        2. Why do we need a universal unique identifier at all.

          If each entity I deal with wants to give me a unique number in their database, thats cool, they should. I dont see any reason they need to be tied together.

          1. How are they going to communicate about your credit usage/repayment?

    4. I think it is within reason for the government to assign people unique identification numbers if they wish to have them. Maintaining a registry of identity numbers is no more invasive than maintaining a registry of addresses, which is one of the things the USPS already does.

      However, that comes with several important caveats.

      One, the assignment of numbers should be optional. If someone believes the number is the mark of the beast or whatever, he should not be obligated to obtain a number. This of course means abolishing the income tax and social security as we know it, but I won’t lose any sleep over that.

      Second, the number should be error-detecting with e.g. check digits to catch erroneous data entry and prevent random guessing. Even in the day and age when the SSN was created, people understood mathematics well enough to accomplish this, and there’s no excuse for not having it now.

      Third, the number used for identity should not be treated as a proxy for authenticity. An alternate mechanism should be used, e.g. a PIN, and any system that validates credentials should be robust to brute force attacks.

      Fourth, the government should also issue, within reason, other identity tokens (such as PKI certificates) as needed and appropriate. This would allow e.g. “secure” online voting, and in fact I think obtaining an identity number and proving one’s identity should be a requirement for voting anyway.

      1. Finally, there should be a way for people to revoke their authentication credentials when “stolen”; the identity number itself would not change, due to the third caveat.

        I don’t really think this steps beyond any bounds of natural rights, since voting is not among them, and no one is compelled to do business with you. If you want credit, you have to get a number; if not, then you have to pay cash or barter for everything.

        The only objection I can see that holds water (although feel free to prove me wrong) is that, considering the way our government(s) do things, it will take forever, cost an exorbitant amount, and fail to actually adhere to one or more of the caveats I mentioned.

        That is a trenchant counterargument, but I would say that the position it is arguing against is not identity numbers. Since I already mentioned the abolition of the IRS and SSA (probably all of HHS really), we would have to have some pretty radical changes in the first place.

      2. If the government stuck to its primary functions, it would have no need to individually identify us uniquely, except once every ten years for census purposes, and even that, they just need number of people in his household.

        And as we have seen, the census is basically just an estimate anyway.

        1. Administering the vote is a legitimate function of the government. I hesitate to call it a power, since it should not impinge on any rights, but I guess it’s an apt description since somebody’s money has to be taken to pay for it.

          Nevertheless, you could make the case that, if e.g. the credit agencies want a unique identifier so bad, they can create and regulate one themselves (a la ISO 7812, ISO 8523, and the PCI DSS for credit cards).

          I would be amenable to that, although I still think voting provides a legitimate reason for the government to issue and regulate identity numbers for those who consent, and I don’t see why third parties couldn’t piggy back on that scheme if they wanted.

      3. Also, this would require a Constitutional amendment, since I don’t believe in the “penumbras and emanations” doctrine.

  3. Must link the intro to The Prisoner.


    1. I’d forgotten about this. Not because I’m that old, but because I started watching it ages ago but classes interrupted. Is it worth finishing?

      I did the same with Twin Peaks, but that series raised more questions than it lowered answers, so I’m probably done with it.

      1. Finishing, not really – the last episode jumps the shark *and* gainaxes simultaneously.

        1. WIH is ‘jumping the shark’?

          1. It’s a fad slang term wordy thing that disappeared from the social subconscious so quickly that google has no record of it.

            1. You could say that “jumping the shark” has jumped the shark.

              Of course there’s the opposite concept, “growing the beard” which TNG fans must perpetuate.

              1. I thought then “Jump the shark” had meet “nuke the fridge”. 😉 http://www.thedailybeast.com/n…..ridge.html

            2. Scarecrow Repair| 5.24.13 @ 8:55PM |#
              “It’s a fad slang term wordy thing that disappeared from the social subconscious so quickly that google has no record of it.”

              There is still reference in g, but the claimed definition seems to interest LA screen-writers rather than actual humans.

              1. *slaps forehead*

                And I put so much work into wording that just so ….

            1. I was very disappointed upon finding out that that was the origin of the term some years ago. Previously thought it was a reference to the shark fin shape, first steep then slow rise followed by vertical fall, with the “jump” marking the transition.

          2. Annnnnnnd The Prisoner is the first Live-Action TV example for TVtrope’s page on gainax endings… so now I know what that is.

            1. Thanks for clearing that up. Agammamon said “gainaxing” and according to tvtropes that means huge bouncing breasts, which had me confused in reference to The Prisoner.

    2. Looks like that dude should have packed his bags before turning in his resignation.

  4. Who in the hell can’t out-swim a weather balloon anyway?

  5. Uncertainty avoidance (UAI)
    The uncertainty avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? Countries exhibiting strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour and are intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles.

    According to Geert Hoefstedt, those countries that are high in uncertainty avoidance are much more likely to demand a national ID card or number. Really nothing much to do with a credit system or national security.

    1. By the way, Japan is rated extremely high in uncertainty avoidance.

  6. that ddude knows he be talking a lot of smack!


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