NRI Papers
No.131 June 1 , 2008
  Privacy: Current Status and Pending Issues in Japan
— Pursuing Harmony between Individual Rights and the Public Interest —
 
Minoru NAKAMURA
   In this paper, consideration is given to the issue of privacy from three perspectives. The first perspective relates to balance between freedom of expression and an individual's private life. In this respect, there are currently no signs of expanding the scope of the people's right to know and the tendency is to give more priority to the protection of privacy over the freedom of expression, except for the increasing trend towards disclosing more information regarding juvenile delinquency.
   The second perspective concerns the respect of the right of self-determination in the medical field. There are still only a small number of people who accept an individual's private decisions such as death with dignity and surrogacy.
   The third perspective involves various issues related to the right to control one's personal information. The Personal Information Protection Law basically requires the consent of an individual to use that person's private information. However, recently, abuse of this principle has become commonplace. Problems have also occurred in the field of data handling in the public sector. For a long time, the Social Insurance Agency kept its mistake regarding public pension records a secret. When this fact was unearthed, distrust developed among people for handling data by public organizations.
   In Japan, no clear consensus exists on whether social security numbers should be used as an official identification system. However, such a system should be introduced immediately because it would serve as the foundation of a welfare state by ensuring the collection of taxes and social insurance premiums as well as the payment of pension benefits.
   In addition, relaxation of the principle of requiring one's consent in using personal information is necessary to improve the efficiency of information management.
Contents
I Overview of Privacy
II Privacy in a Narrow Sense
III Right of Self-Determination in the Medical Field
IV Right to Control One's Own Personal Information

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