Back in September, Taro Kano, Japan’s Minister of Digital Affairs, called on the Japanese government to stop using floppy discs, cassette tapes, and other outdated storage media. It’s a move that many think is long overdue, but his latest initiative isn’t being met with nearly as happy a response from the public.
According to a Yomiuri Shimbun report, Kano has directed the cabinet’s Digital Agency to begin concrete discussions with professional sports leagues and other event management organizations to encourage them to require eventgoers present their My Number Card, a government-issued ID card, both when purchasing tickets and attempting to enter the event venue.
The Digital Agency’s suggestion is that when buying tickets, you’d be required to touch your My Number Card, which is equipped with an IC chip, to your smartphone before you could finalize the purchase. You’d then also be required to present your My Number Card on the day of the event before being let into the stadium, concert hall or theater.
The advantage to this system, the Digital Agency says, is that the increased security and improved identity confirmation would help prevent ticket scalping. That may be true, but it seems significant that it’s not the sports and entertainment industries who are going to the government and asking for their ideas on how to stop scalpers, but the government that’s initiating the talks.
Currently, all residents of Japan have been issued a My Number number, which is similar to a U.S. social security number and is used as a form of identification for pension, tax, and other government functions. In 2024 the My Number Card is scheduled to replace the current national health insurance card, and the government is also thinking of having it function as one’s driver’s license too.
However, only about 60 percent of Japanese residents have applied for the currently still optional IC chip-equipped My Number Card, with many saying they don’t see a significant benefit to it. The government wants to eventually increase that number to 100 percent, and making it easier to get sports and concert tickets if you have a My Number Card is being seen by many as a ploy to pressure the general population into applying for one.
Of course, it’s more accurate to say that the proposal would make it impossible to purchase tickets if you don’t have a card, so the Digital Agency’s recommendation wouldn’t so much be providing a new benefit to My Number Card holders as it would be taking away a convenience people already have and locking it behind the get-a-My-Number-Card gate.
The proposed system would also make it impossible for those without smartphones to purchase tickets, since the device is required to authenticate the buyer’s identity via the My Number Card IC chip. Many have also expressed concern over privacy and personal information security if they’re required to electronically send data that essentially links the card holder, the government, and the events they’re attending. And though it’s not something that’s currently a major point of discussion within Japan, ticket purchases and event entry requiring a My Number Card, something only residents of Japan can obtain, would essentially lock travelers and short-term visitors out of live entertainment events unless organizers go to the trouble of setting up a completely separate purchase protocol for them.
Add it all up, and comments on Japanese Twitter about the proposal haven’t been at all positive.
“So I’m gonna need to take my My Number Card with me to idol concerts? Don’t appreciate the government sticking its nose in my oshikatsu.”
“That’s not what the My Number system was created for at all, is it? The Japanese government is really out of bounds here.”
“It’s like their ultimate aim is to create a total surveillance society.”
“Now they’re just doing whatever crazy thing they can think of to force people to apply for the card.”
“So they want us to put all sorts of personal data on a single card, and use that card when we buy tickets? They aint right in the head!”
Considering some of the scandals we’ve seen in just the past year involving government employees in Japan losing people’s personal data, the reactions aren’t surprising.
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