Greetings From the Director

Like the world’s other democracies, Japan is now grappling with a central dilemma of the information age — how to reap the powerful benefits of information technology in business and government while safeguarding the legitimate privacy of citizens and consumers. The ways in which the privacy issue has developed in Japan since the 1960s and what its dynamics are now are presented in a major publication of our Japan-US Privacy and Data Protection Program — "Consumer Privacy in Japan and the New Personal Data Protection Program" (available by clicking the link on the Home Page).

As this White Paper documents, privacy promises to be a major social, political, and legal battleground in Japan in 2004-2005. This is the period when rules to implement Japan’s new Personal Data Protection Law must be developed and issued by the national ministries. The rules must be applied not only to especially sensitive areas of personal data — such as financial affairs. credit reporting, national origin, and medical records — but also to the Internet, cell and camera phones, RFID chips, and other new technologies. How to protect individual privacy without infringing on the freedom-of-the-press rights of the media will be a particularly delicate challenge.

In addition, the rules must address how to strengthen the security of personal data held by businesses and government, in light of the steady stream of data-leakage episodes featured in the Japanese media. 2004-2005 is also the period when privacy rules for the new electronic Resident Register (Juki Net) and for other e-Government programs in Japan must be formulated.

All of these draft guidelines are sure to be put into debate by spokespersons from the key groups engaged in the privacy issue — from Japan’s business, consumer, government, technology, legal and media organizations.

What should be noted is that these privacy debates will unfold at a time of deep social change in Japan, when the roles of individuals, non-profit organizations, local government, the educational system, and other key areas of Japanese life are in significant transition. And, the worldwide terrorist threats require Japan, as in all democracies, to strengthen anti-terrorist investigative techniques and achieve stronger citizen personal identifications without creating undue intrusions into privacy rights.

The privacy debates are also unfolding in a climate of sharply lower trust by the Japanese public in key institutions; this directly affects the willingness of Japanese citizens and consumers to have their sensitive personal information collected and used in business and government programs. Indeed, lack of consumer and citizen trust is at the heart of the privacy issue, and this is what both business and government must address fully if the right results are to be reached in Japan’s privacy system.

The JAPAN PRIVACY RESOURCE (JPR) has been designed and launched as a free service to all those engaged in the privacy debates.

  • The JPR’s monthly Newsflash delivers up-to-the-minute privacy news from a wide range of Japanese-language and English newspapers and magazines; past Newsflashes will be accessible for later reference in the News Archive.
  • JPR’s collection of laws, regulations, lawsuits, surveys, statistics, reports and other resources provides a thorough reference library on privacy developments past and present.
  • The JPR contains a library of model privacy policies by businesses on and off the Internet, as well as model privacy ordinances by local governments and privacy policies of local and national government web sites.
  • Another feature of the JPR is a directory of industry, consumer, legal, government, technology, and media groups active in the privacy debates.
  • The JPR will also include a selection of privacy laws, guidelines, regulations, and policies from other democratic nations that may offer approaches helpful for Japanese policy makers to consider.

However, we must stress that the JPR is just beginning — it is a work in progress. For example, not all of the materials will initially be available in both Japanese and English, though achieving that goal will be our priority.

Thus, we welcome suggestions about other useful materials to put in our library, and especially we invite users to send such materials to us in electronic form. We also invite those looking at our web site to suggest ways in which we might improve both the content and the presentation of materials for our visitors. Please contact us at

Finally, in the next few months, we will be assembling SPONSORS for the Japan Privacy Resource, just as we have done since 1998 for the parent of JPR — Sponsors for JPR will be companies and industry associations, government agencies, private foundations, and media organizations in Japan and in the U.S. They will see the provision of an expert, objective, comprehensive, and user-friendly resource on Japanese privacy developments as a significant resource for themselves, and also a contribution to achieving good outcomes over privacy in Japan which they will wish to support.

Alan F. Westin
Professor of Public Law & Government Emeritus, Columbia University, USA
Director, Japan Privacy Resource
April 12, 2004




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