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Fujitsu scolded for identity error in Japan’s My Number system

Woman applying for residence certificate issued someone else’s document
Fujitsu scolded for identity error in Japan’s My Number system

Japan’s My Number personal ID system is planning to allow digital identity documents as valid proof of identity when obtaining a physical My Number card. But, as reported in the Japan Times, the system faces questions about persistent errors in its issuing of documents, and Fujitsu, which facilitates the service in convenience stores, has received formal administrative guidance from the internal affairs ministry following the latest incident.

The Times reports that digital student IDs and employee IDs could be accepted for My Number applications as early as May. The government is hoping to boost uptake of the My Number cards, which are optional, even though enrolment in the My Number system is mandatory. Roughly 78 percent of Japan’s population has obtained a physical card.

However, the digital identity system is currently facing additional scrutiny, following an incident in which a person applying for a residence certificate copy at a convenience store was issued the certificate of another person who had applied at the same time, but at a different store. The snafu has been blamed on “a malfunctioning program.”

The resulting administrative rebuke from the ministry of internal affairs is pointed at Fujitsu, a subsidiary of which runs the My Number-linked certificate system for convenience stores across Japan. The Times quotes a ministry official who deemed the incident “extremely regrettable” and declared, “it cannot be said that necessary and appropriate measures had been taken thoroughly.” Last year, Fujitsu’s system recorded 15 similar incidents of errors in issuing documents.

Fujitsu has promised to address the issue and prevent recurring errors. The ministry has given it until May 15 to report back.

The move to accept ID card apps as valid identification documents is unlikely to make policing the My Number system less complex, as the new digital ID option brings new potential misuse for fraud and identity theft. This stands to add to existing concerns about the breadth of the My Number system, as it expands to cover things like health insurance and event ticketing.

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