- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

TOKYO (AP) — A national computerized ID system that was criticized for its Big Brother overtones when started last year became fully operational yesterday, allowing Japan’s 126 million citizens to cut through red tape with an 11-digit number.

The online database, which contains every citizen’s name, address, birth date and sex, is the centerpiece of a government initiative to speed up administrative procedures such as filing change-of-address forms and applying for passports.

Three local governments — two subdivisions of Tokyo and a small town north of the capital — continued to boycott the system yesterday, and a citizens’ group reportedly planned to seek a court injunction to block the system.

But the upgrade of the Juki Net system appeared to run smoother than during its introduction in August 2002, when it was beset by glitches and hit with protests calling it a threat to individual privacy. At that time, six local governments refused to participate.

Several finally decided to connect after Japan’s parliament passed a long-debated law in May to protect personal information from abuse by bureaucrats.

The data stored in the system after it went online in August initially was used internally by the government. Yesterday local governments began issuing Juki Net ID cards, thus allowing citizens to take advantage of various administrative shortcuts.

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