News Marathon 6: Kanazawa Regional Court Rules “Citizens Network” Unconstitutional

From Tokyo Shimbun:

Application to citizens wishing to be excluded is unconstitutional
Orders prefecture to delete personal information
Citizens Network lawsuit decided at Kanazawa Regional Court

Proclaiming that the Citizens Basic Registry Network (Citizens Network/CN or “Juki Net” in Japanese) was ruled to violate privacy and personal rights guaranteed by the Japanese Constitution, Justice Ken’ichi Ido of the Kanazawa Regional Court ruled that prefectural and local Information Centers must delete the personal information of the plaintiffs, who are suing for the deletion of their information and for 220,000 yen apiece in damages from the central government et al.

There are currently lawsuits underway demanding the exclusion from the Citizens Network and damages from the government in 13 regional courts across Japan, but Kanazawa was the first court to reach a decision. The decision is likely to have an effect on the government’s IT strategy and plans for e-government.

The decision states, “As long as Citizens Network is applied to the Plaintiffs, who do not waive their right to privacy and are demanding to be excluded, Citizens Network is in violation of Article 13 of the Constitution.” Applying the system to citizens who demand to be exluded was found to be unconstitutional.

Further, it found that “Prefectures etc would be managing the private information of the Plaintiffs with no basis in the law,” accepting the right to demand cessation of Citizens Network based on Privacy Rights.

Justice Ido, in his reasons for the decision, writes, “The right to control your own information is included as one important aspect of the right to privacy in Article 13.” He goes on to say, “Citizens Network also violates the right of control, but (this right) has a substantial limit for purposes of public welfare.”

Furthermore, “I cannot accept that Citizens Network is important enough to sacrifice the right to privacy.”

Also, of the personal identification information found to be included in the right of control, “4 pieces of information: name, address, birthdate, and gender do not require a high level of concealment, but one’s citizen register (juminhyo) code and modification information allow one to collect various personal information, making the need for concealment substantially high.” Ido stated, “It is easy to imagine a situation where citizens would be stark naked in front of government institutions with their personal autonomy threatened.”

Regarding Citizens Network’s safety, Ido said, “The specific danger of illegal access or information leaks due to CN’s lack of security is problematic, and added that it is doubtful that proper measures to protect personal information were being taken at every municipality around the country.

As for damages, he avoided them by saying, “The unconstitutionality of the Citizens Network Law is limited to when it is clear to anyone.”

The federal government disagreed, saying, “The right of control is not protected by the Constitution. Measures for the protection of information are fine, and there is no violation of privacy.