We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

My Number

The new unified identification system with its associated up-to-the-minute database will streamline government, reduce fraud and tax evasion, make it easier to stop people “falling between the cracks” of different government departments, provide a convenient single means for citizens to prove their identity, and protect us all from terrorism. If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

What will bring about all these benefits? It sounds very like the UK Identity Cards Act 2006, but that cannot be since various malcontents forced the Act’s repeal in 2010. While it is true that for the British Civil Servant no setback is ever permanent, for now the torch has passed to Japan, where the latest version of the Eternal Scheme is called “My Number”.

Even in such a cooperative and law-abiding culture as Japan there are the inevitable troublemakers:

More Japan citizens sue gov’t over My Number system

Around 30 citizens in central and southwestern Japan filed lawsuits Thursday with regional courts, demanding the government suspend the use of identification numbers under the newly launched My Number social security and tax number system.

The lawsuits are the latest in a string of cases in which residents and lawyers argue that the right to privacy is endangered by the system, which allocates a 12-digit identification number to every resident of Japan, including foreign nationals, to simplify administrative procedures for taxation and social security.

Mitsuhiro Kato, who heads the lawyers’ group in the lawsuit with the Nagoya District Court, said at a press conference, “There were cases in which personal information was (illegally) sold and bought. Once the use of My Number expands, the state would come to control individual activities.”

According to the lawsuit, the action to collect citizens’ personal information without their consent infringes on their right to manage their own personal information. The plaintiffs are also worried about the risk of their personal information being leaked given the insufficient security measures currently in place.

My Number legislation has been enacted to make it easier for tax and other authorities to discover cases of tax evasion and wrongful receipt of welfare benefits.

But public concerns have grown over the government’s handling of personal information under the My Number system following massive data leaks from the Japan Pension Service in the wake of cyberattacks in May.

Here is a little more about that massive data leak from, or rather hack of, the Japanese pension system: 1.25 million affected by Japan Pension Service hack.

But fear not:

The hacked computers were not connected online to the fund’s core computer system, which keeps financial details of the pension system’s members, officials said. No illicit access to the core system, which contains the most sensitive information, such as the amount of premiums paid by and the amount of benefits paid to each individual, has been detected, they said, adding that they are still investigating the incident.

It is remarkable how when we read about these government data security breaches in any country, the most alarming possibilities always seem to have been avoided. Some special providence must protect government databases.

The public face of My Number is provided by popular actress Aya Ueto and a rabbit-like mascot with numbers in place of eyes called “Maina-chan”.

21 comments to My Number

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mm-hm. I remember back in 1990, when not-so-Great Britain made not just citizenship but identity itself a privilege that could be revoked should some unfortunate get crossways of the Controller of the Public Control Department. And one then became a neumbah, in Digger Radford’s accent anyway; one no longer had a name.

    Yes, let’s all become numbers.

    “My Number” indeed!

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Julie – the television series “1990” with the Public Control Department and no cash (just electronic credits – which is what the Swedish government wants).

    A number – on every head and hand.

    Book of Revelations.

    But with a cuddly mascot……

  • Mr Ed

    The purported reason?

    to simplify administrative procedures for taxation and social security.

    Just as with the EU arrest warrant, here in the UK anyone is one fax away from being dragged to, say, Greece for a Kafkaesque trial, the limited right to jury trial rendered meanningless, but so much more convenient for the public prosecutors involved, and what else matters?

  • “The fund officials also acknowledged that, regarding some 500,000 of the 1.25 million cases, passwords were not set, in an apparent violation of the fund’s internal rules.” (my italics)

    They describe it as an _apparent_ violation. Maybe that’s with an eye to finding some (more 🙂 ) weasel words after the fuss dies down to explain why no disciplinary action will be taken against the ‘apparent’ violators. Woe betide anyone suggesting that this Japanese department sack a few people and become efficient enough not to need to replace them. Punish citizens for violating rules, yes; punish employees, no.

    Earlier in the article Natalie links to, I see the words, “… In a scandal reminiscent of the nation’s botched handling of pension records about a decade ago…” This is routine; plans based on the assumption of greater governmental efficiency will fail embarrassing, dismally and sometimes disastrously, even if they were (unusually) likely to be of benefit were that not so.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “Bond. James Bond.”

    See, that’s the difference. Mr. Bond had that speck of devil-may-care that simply wouldn’t let him settle for being only a neumbah. Even as far back as 1966. 😉

    . . .

    Niall, it almost sounds as if you’re saying that the govenment might possibly be not entirely reliable in taking care of us. I simply don’t believe that.

    What do we pay rates and taxes for?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Niall & Julie, on a point related to yours about the habitual efficiency of government, I have added some extra snark that I forgot to put in when I first wrote the post.

  • Julie near Chicago


    From God’s mouth to The Gov’s ear? Sounds a little Pharaonic, don’t it.

    Additional snark always welcome, and I appreciate the News Flash on it as well. 🙂

  • CaptDMO

    Hey, I know, maybe “we” can tattoo these numbers on out forearms for
    “ease in administration”?

  • llamas




  • Fraser Orr

    I think all these moves toward government efficiency betray an ignorance of one key fact: were it not for the utter incompetence, stupidity and caprice of government officials, were they to execute their libraries full of laws, rules and regulations fully and completely, then the country would grind to a halt.

    The only thing that protects us from government stupidity and oppression is their utterly ineffective enforcement of it.

  • Laird

    Indeed, Frazer, that is entirely the point of Will Rogers’ famous line: “Those who complain about the high cost of government should be glad we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for!”

  • mojo

    Auction off the good numbers. One Million. One billion, etc. Pi, minus decimal point. Ditto for e.

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    “But the culminating pleasure
    that we treasure beyond measure,
    Is the gratifying feeling
    that our duty has been done.”
    G&S- The Gondoliers


  • Nicholas (Excentrality!) Gray

    And what if a numbered person dies? If Number One (the Emperor?) dies, does his immediate heir then become one-b, one-2nd? Or is the number only ever used once, and later generations have longer and longer numbers to use?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh, yes indeed, J.M. And the extremity of pleasure accompanying that situation is that one needn’t feel overburdened and worn down with the necessity of figuring out what’s to be done. (See, for instance, yet another BBC documentary. I believe it’s entitled Brave New World.)

    By the way, so nice to see another Pearl of W. to go along with the more frequent mention of the List. (I have one myself, by the way. She said, with a large and evil grin adorning her map.)

    Smart fellas, G&S. :>))

  • Does each citizen have to pay for the forearm tattoo themselves, or does the government apply it for free?

  • CaptDMO beat me too it. *doff’s hat”

  • Mr Ed

    Does each citizen have to pay for the forearm tattoo themselves, or does the government apply it for free?

    Hey, under this plan, you can keep your forearm if you want to.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Who actually believes that the lack of an efficient general identity system actually protects them from abuses by the state?

    It is my belief that denying the state a power to perform its necessary functions efficiently and effectively within the law promotes acceptance of state agents covertly going outside the law to get these things done.

    Which to my mind is a far greater danger to liberty.

  • Tranio

    In Canada it is our SIN number. It is 9 digits and I’ve had one since I emigrated to Canada in 1968. Social Insurance Number.