The government calls it a more efficient system taxation and social security system, but critics fear it will lead to massive personal information leaks and greater state infringement on citizen’s privacy.

It’s called the My Number identification system, and it was launched in Japan on Monday. The Asahi Shimbun reported that the system assigns 12 digits to anyone holding a certificate of residence in Japan, adding that the government claims “residents will also benefit from (it)… in that they will need to fill out fewer forms to submit to officials.” The numbers are currently being sent out, and will be required for filing taxes and other processes beginning in 2016.

The article also noted critics concerns that such consolidation of information could pose greater damage if such records were compromised. It went on to highlight an even greater concern: “the new national identification system could lead to closer scrutiny of personal information by the central government.”

Other organizations have further concerns. General Union, in their introduction to a Q&A about the My Number system called the My Number system “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” that will help the government “harass” citizens who have fallen behind on their taxes, insurance and other bills in order to “demand back payments.” Given that there is currently a long-term plan to link My Numbers with personal bank accounts (according to RT) starting in 2018, this may be a valid concern. A Kyodo news article, via the Japan Times, indicates that the first case of fraud based on the My Number system has already been reported.

The RT report says the government adopted the system because Japan has no equivalent to the U.S. social security system or Europe’s national identification number. But that explanation did little to persuade skeptics, 400 of whom gathered to protest in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward on Saturday, chanting: “Stop My Number now!” and “No dangerous My Number card!” Yasuhiko Tajima, a Sophia University professor of media law, was quoted in the article as saying the My Number system is “unconstitutional,” and “undemocratic.”

–Kyle Mullin

Image: City of Taijimi