Chapell & Associates

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Poll: 60% Fear Data Exposure, 57% Say Info 'Overprotected'

Yomiuri Shimbun - December 27, 2005
Nearly 60 percent of people fear that overprotection of personal information may make [Japanese] society inconvenient and difficult to live in, while 61 percent of people are concerned their personal information could be exposed or misused, according to a recent Yomiuri Shimbun poll. Since the Personal Information Protection Law came into effect in April, a number of local governments, schools, police departments and other institutions have withheld or were reluctant to provide personal information, citing protection of privacy as the reason. The survey found such a practice invites public distrust and that people are concerned about increasing anonymity within society.

The Chapell View
Given that the US has yet to pass national privacy legislation, it's hard to compare this to what's occurred so far here. On the other hand, twenty-two states have now passed data breach of privacy legislation, much of it similar to the 2003 California law which has required a number of companies to disclose their data breaches. Some of these laws are stricter than CA's, which has given proponents of privacy legislation some odd allies - data brokers and others who would want a national law to trump state requirements.

At any rate, I don't think anyone would expect privacy legislation to go too far, as a majority of respondents seemed to think about Japan's privacy legislation. But it does, at least on from what I can tell, seem as though the Japanese law has been restrictive, with the Shimbun reporting that a number of government institutions have experienced problems since the law's passage in April 2005. Maybe this makes sense: the law restricts when and how personal information can be shared. Taken too far, this could restrict the information from the hands of those who might need it - those helping, for example, "elderly residents who live on their own and are in need of help at the time of a disaster."

The discussion over national privacy legislation may soon heat up, with MSFT and the CDT joining together to lobby for its consideration. As this debate grows - over whether or not it should be limited to informing consumers about data breaches, what restrictions there should be, if it should take the CA law as a model - perhaps we ought to consider Japan's example. After all, some Health Care providers have run into difficulty accommodating the restrictions of the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). And while I don't think any national privacy legislation will probably go too far, it's worth remembering that collected personal information can be very useful to citizens and consumers. The idea is to keep it secure and used in the proper way – not stop it from being used at all.
posted by Isaac on Thursday, January 05, 2006

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