Flexible Approach Needed amid No End to Registration Errors

It must be said that in the rush to achieve a signature digital policy, the proper handling of personal information has been neglected. The government needs to take thorough measures to prevent a reoccurrence of similar problems.

The government held a task force meeting to comprehensively review information on the My Number identification card system and released an interim report on a survey conducted on local governments, health insurance associations and other entities.

Regarding My Number cards linked to health insurance certificates, there have been a series of cases in which My Number cards were mistakenly linked to the medical information of other individuals. The government is currently investigating 29 areas, including pension and employment insurance, to see whether My Number cards and health insurance certificates have been linked through the proper procedures.

The interim report revealed 1,069 new cases of errors in linking My Number cards with health insurance certificates. When combined with the 7,372 cases found by May this year, the total number rises to 8,441.

In addition, the government has newly found 118 cases of linkage mistakes between My Number cards and records of the mutual aid pension system for civil servants, as well as instances of inappropriately registering My Number cards with certificates issued to people with disabilities, or with information on the pension system for job-related accidents.

When the personal information of totally different individuals is mistakenly linked to My Number cards, which are assigned to all citizens, it is a serious issue that shakes the very foundation of the system.

In many cases, linkage mistakes between My Number cards and health insurance certificates happened when health insurance associations failed to confirm the numbers of the target people and linked My Number cards with health insurance certificates based only on information such as names or dates of birth. As a result, information on different people who happen to have the same names was registered.

The government bears a heavy responsibility for failing to ensure that confirmation procedures were thoroughly followed in the field, despite the fact that not doing so could easily lead to mistakes.

The government intends to formulate cross-sectional rules for the registration process in the future, such as requiring local governments and other entities to thoroughly check the numbers on My Number cards when they engage in registration work. It also plans to establish a mechanism for periodic inspections. However, these actions are undeniably too late.

The task force has decided to check all the data at about 5,000 of the many entities, including local governments and central government agencies, that handle practical linking operations. Because of the enormous amount of work required, it said the inspections will not be fully completed until the end of November.

As the inspection work progresses, it is possible that more linkage mistakes will be found. If a situation continues in which this problem is not brought under control, it is extremely unlikely that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will be able to achieve his goal of “eliminating public anxiety” over My Number-related issues. It would do more harm than good if continued confusion leads to a delay in digitization.

Kishida has said that he will wait to see the results of the comprehensive inspections before deciding whether to postpone the abolition of the current health insurance certificates in principle from autumn next year.

If political power is drained away by My Number troubles, it will be impossible to deal with important issues at home and abroad. Instead of treating this problem based on predetermined conclusions, the government should respond flexibly, including by postponing the abolition of health insurance certificates.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 9, 2023)