Poor Management in Spotlight after On-Site Inspection of Digital Agency

It seems that cases in which My Number identification details were mistakenly linked with the bank accounts of other people are being taken seriously. It is hoped that rigorous inspections will be conducted to uncover what problems lie behind such cases.

The government’s Personal Information Protection Commission (PPC) conducted an on-site inspection of the Digital Agency. The aim was to look into the agency’s procedures regarding cases in which a bank account in the name of a different person was mistakenly registered for receiving public benefits.

So far, 940 cases of such registration mistakes have been confirmed. When people involved in these cases visited Mynaportal, a website for My Number cardholders, they were able to see the name, bank account and other information of a different person who was mistakenly registered.

The agency was aware of some cases of registration mistakes in February, but this information was not shared within the organization. If the agency had contacted local governments that were responsible for the registration procedures, the number of similar mistakes definitely could have been reduced. The agency bears a heavy responsibility.

Even though the PPC, chaired by Mieko Tanno, is not a highly independent organization based on Article 3 of the National Government Organization Law, the commission is given the authority to conduct on-site inspections of companies and government offices, as well as to mete out administrative discipline such as recommendations and orders.

According to the commission, it initially launched an inquiry in writing into why personal information was leaked under the My Number system, only to receive unsatisfactory answers from the agency.

As the My Number system affects every member of the public, it cannot be overlooked that personal information has been leaked due to mistakes in inputting data, among other reasons. It is only natural for the commission to have launched an on-site inspection of the agency.

It is important for the PPC to scrutinize whether the Digital Agency put in place an appropriate risk management system, such as preparing the steps it would take in the event of an incident. If necessary, the commission should not hesitate to impose administrative discipline on the agency.

When it comes to My Number identification numbers, cases have also been reported in which they were mistakenly linked with health insurance cards and disability certificates. As the government has explained, it is probably true that these cases were mostly attributed to mistakes in inputting data by local governments and health insurance associations, as they are in charge of the registration procedures.

However, it is undeniable that the central government put local governments and other entities in a position to make mistakes, because it made them hurriedly handle complicated procedures under a deadline as part of its efforts to promote the use of the My Number cards. The government seems to have underestimated the burden these entities would shoulder in the registration procedures.

It is also difficult to understand the attitude of digital minister Taro Kono in regard to this series of problems.

Asked by opposition parties during a Diet session about what people should do if they accidentally view someone else’s personal information, Kono only repeated the telephone number of a help desk. When asked about moves by some people who have stepped forward to return their My Number cards, the minister brushed it off, saying the number of such cases is not significant.

If Kono continues to show such an insincere attitude, it will only become less likely that the government can regain public trust in the My Number system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 21, 2023)