Japan’s digital ID system faces inspection amidst data leaks and errors

An interim report issued last week disclosed an alarming 1,000 new cases where the My Number national identification cards were inaccurately linked with unrelated medical data.

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Japan’s digital identification system, marred by data leaks and registration errors, is now undergoing an intensive government inspection to address its critical issues and curb public backlash. An interim report released on Tuesday revealed an additional 1,000 cases in which the My Number national identification cards were incorrectly linked to unrelated medical information, adding to the 7,400 cases previously disclosed.

The My Number system assigns citizens and foreign residents a unique 12-digit identifier linked to their personal data, offering access to essential government services. Despite an adoption rate of 77 percent, encompassing around 89 million individuals, resistance has arisen, particularly among Japan’s aging population. The government’s initiative to merge health insurance cards with My Number cards, aimed at promoting digital transformation, has faced opposition and legal challenges from medical professionals, highlighting manual data entry errors that continue to plague the system.

As reflected in recent polls, public sentiment demonstrates a reluctance to use ID cards for healthcare purposes and skepticism regarding the government’s capacity to rectify the situation. As Prime Minister Kishida’s approval ratings hit a record low of 35 percent, the government remains determined to merge the My Number system with health insurance cards to advance digital infrastructure and government processes.

Why does it matter?

The ongoing issues with data leaks and registration errors raise concerns about data security and the effectiveness of digital transformation efforts. This situation could hinder Japan’s global competitiveness and reputation as a tech-savvy nation, eroding public trust in the government’s ability to manage technology-driven initiatives. Yet, Japan isn’t alone in its digital ID struggles. A recent report by the Balkan Investigative Journalism Network (BIRN) revealed a spike in cyberattacks tied to the rise of biometrics and digital identity systems (BDI) in the Balkans. As governments and organizations continue to push for digital transformation and the integration of biometrics, addressing these challenges to regain public trust becomes paramount.