Below is a hypothetical exchange between a waitress and customer at a family restaurant somewhere in Japan.
"I see your name is Nakagusuku. I have an uncle with the same name. Is there any chance you're from Ginowan, in Okinawa? We may be distantly related."
"Er, sorry, but it's read Nakajo and I come from Tohoku."
"Ah, naruhodo (I see)…"
Could this seemingly innocent exchange possibly be a problem? J-Cast News (Aug 9) reported on a recent controversy over the practice of having people who work at such service industry as cashiers at convenience stores and supermarkets, store clerks, restaurant waiters and so on, who wear name badges that indicate either their surnames or their full names.
With the ubiquity of social networks, concerns have increased that such persons may be identified on Twitter or Facebook, for example, by "claimers" (people who persistently voice real or imagined dissatisfaction in an antagonistic manner) or even by stalkers.
The controversy first surfaced Aug 2 in the "Hatsugen Komachi" (village voices) department on Yomiuri Online, under the heading, "I'd like to stop wearing a name badge at my sales job."
"Wearing a name badge with either one's surname or full name at such jobs in convenience stores, supermarkets, drugstores, restaurants, karaoke salons, and so on, may be linked to stalking or having personal data exposed on the Internet," the first poster wrote. "Of course, in order for a customer to complain about poor service or a bad attitude, there must be some way to identify that person, so how about making them wear a number, or a made-up name?"
Over the week that followed, some 125 people gave their pro and con responses. The first posters were generally in agreement about preferring their name not be used. One wrote: "I've worked in the service industry. And while the 'customer is god,' he or she can also become a stalker. It can be a really scary, unpleasant feeling. Before [a certain person] could find out where I lived, I quit the part-time job. At the next place I work, I don't want to wear an name badge."
"I've experienced being stalked," posted another. "We're living in times when various information can be found by a name search. If a person knows where you work, he can find out almost anything. I really wish they'd stop requiring us to show our names."
"At service-related jobs, I can understand that it's necessary to identify a worker, but I think a nickname or number is enough," wrote a third. "These are dangerous times and I don't want to display my real name if it can be avoided."
The web site for NEC Nexsolutions Ltd, a consulting firm, posted these remarks from its Personal Data Protection section: "There is no problem with the compiling of a name list of sales staff, based on the individuals accepting or agreeing to its necessity, and making this list available to the staff of a sales outlet or posting it on the bulletin board in the corridor." That said, the message added, without an individual's consent, he or she cannot be obliged to wear a name badge bearing his full name.
In the past, J-Cast noted, the purpose of wearing a name badge was to indicate the business's responsibility toward the customer, by enabling the customer to remember a name that went with the face, and by so doing forging a more personal relationship. These days, however, more jobs take on the style of assembly-line work, and relationships with customers tend to be superficial at best.
Unfortunately, cases of claimers or stalkers have increased, along with concerns over the possibility of having one's name and face posted on the Internet without permission, and these explain the reluctance by many to make their full names known.
The biggest problem is that one's name, in principle, must be regarded as a type of "personal data." Considering the way the Internet is used these days, to display it at random to large numbers of people may carry with it potential dangers. As such, the indicating of employees' names may represent a new and daunting challenge for corporate management.© Japan Today