Had a meeting today with Yoshiko Sakurai and and other members of the anti-Jyukinet (National ID) "movement" this morning. I have been working with Sakurai-san and this group since September 2001. A lot has happened since then. We first tried very hard get a moratorium on the deployment before operation began. We got a great deal of support, but in the end operation began. Several local governments and prefectures resisted on the basis that there was a clause that privacy must be assured and the privacy bill had not been passed. A very watered down and poorly written privacy bill was passed and several anti-Jyukinet local governments lead by Yokoyama decided to participate in Jyukinet with a opt-out clause. There are still some local governments which are resisting, but such resistance is getting more and more difficult. Although we were able to raise privacy concerns when we were at the peak of our rallying efforts, people clearly do not feel too strongly about privacy issues generally.
Today we discussed a new angle that appears to be more convincing to many local governments. The cost of deploying the system is very high considering limited benefits. Although the central government says that they only spent $400M or so, it appears that it really cost more like $700M. In addition, there is a fairly substantial burden on the local governments. Although we would like people to think of things in terms of social cost and privacy risk, the more simple message is whether it is worth spending all of this money on a system which is supposed to be used only for receiving local government services. This message may be easier to spread.
I am in a somewhat awkward position right now. After the deployment began, I realized that it would be difficult to stop the system. While Sakurai-san continues to protest Jyukinet quite vocally and support the few local governments who are opposed to Jyukinet, I have started working within the system trying to educate the bureaucrats and trying to head of any new projects that might increase the risk. I am meeting regularly with "both sides" trying to figure out the most effective way to reduce risk. It is important that Sakurai-san continue to be vocal so that people continue to pay attention to the issues, but God is in the details. I am becoming immersed and inundated with the details. For example, early on in the process, I told the central government that they needed to educate the vendors and the local governments about privacy. I was soon presented with an "opportunity" to lecture local governments and vendors about privacy. Thanks... It's becoming physically and mentally quite difficult to continue this effort since it has very little to do with my "day job", but it's also very difficult to disengage since there are so few of "us".
Someone please help me... I wish we had EPIC in Japan. OK I'll stop wining...