A woman waits at a crosswalk by a countdown clock for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo on Tuesday. Photo: AP/Kiichiro Sato

Concerns mount over trace app for potential foreign Olympic fans


The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.


©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

George Orwell warned us about this didn’t he?

17 ( +25 / -8 )

Why isn't the company named or at least the companies that put in bids. Some info on the tender would be good too, as this story almost indicates an opaque selection process.

28 ( +29 / -1 )

They will not allow foreign fans unless for strict restrictions implying not freedom to move around which fans will not be ready to comply with

22 ( +22 / -0 )

One company, nevertheless, made and won the bid in January to develop the app for a gigantic 7.3 billion yen -- way before the decision is made.

Let's guess here...Dentsu, or one of it's subsidiaries?

31 ( +33 / -2 )

These devices are tracking us and spying on us. Why doesn't the general public riot against this practice? I do every day but one rioter is silly.

7 ( +16 / -9 )

This seems like purposefully being done badly, maybe to discourage foreign tourists from coming? If you make a requirement for coming a tracing app developed in short time without any transparency and on the tails of a huge failure of a similar piece of software many people will think twice before coming.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Just set up free testing in large train stations.

What did people do before apps and smart phones FFS!

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Let's guess here...Dentsu, or one of it's subsidiaries?

Are you psychic?

12 ( +13 / -1 )

One company, nevertheless, made and won the bid in January to develop the app for a gigantic 7.3 billion yen -- way before the decision is made

Well yes, I hope the government will offer us some transparency as to which company this is and how the process went to tender.

You know, seeing as it's our money.

And the original bid for the whole Olympics was 7 billion.

Because otherwise people might start to worry that the whole thing was a scam from the outset, and that this latest new expense is just taking the p!we.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

But Suga also said he sees "usages away from the games too."

The app will connect with the Foreign Ministry's electronic visa and Health Ministry's HER-SYS system that share information on those infected as well as a custom system in order to centralize information on foreign visitors' movements, health condition and COVID-19 test results.

This is very scary as the gov could and probably will start to use this app as a means to track and monitor all foreigners eventually.

Japan starting to look more and more like China every day.

Let's guess here...Dentsu, or one of it's subsidiaries?

exactly what I was thinking

14 ( +17 / -3 )

Its not yet named, but is nick-named 神アプリ("God App"), and costs about 20 times the COCOA App which is the COVID contact tracing app for the general public of Japan (it cost 400 mil yen)

For info in Japanese you need to search オリンピック・パラリンピック観客等向けアプリ (tentative name).

When the IT General Strategy Office was questioned on the ridiculous cost by a reporter and the total waste it would be if there were no foreign fans allowed, the answer was "I can't answer because the person in charge is absent."

Of note, its being developed for use by 1.2 million people (800,000 fans and 400,000 athletes/staff), which would be even more ridiculous if that many people actually were let in.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Junior high kids create apps. Doesn’t cost them billions of yen to do them either.

I don’t want outsiders coming here to freely roam on public transport, when even us living here if we leave and return cannot.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Do it... unless it's the useless stuff as Cocoa (why the name?).

If you bring all that people into town, trace everywhere they go if you you want them to abide by the rules. I can tell you that foreigners in party mode won't care not even a tiny bit.

Kutchan right now is having a cluster of infections and it's because (mostly the non Japanese) community cannot care any less about the virus. On Feb 13th there was a party with tons of people right next to each other, no masks, distancing, and now we're having a cluster of infections.

In the building in staying there was an infection. The person recently left and everyone (including me) were told to say put and isolate till the 27th even after testing negative. Well, everyone still going out and today everyone's skiing like nothing. Further spreading the virus and this thing will never come to an end. And yes, most of them are foreigners. Same thing happened on January 1st.

Do like South Korea and be strict. Too much freedom and look at 'murica and GoTo Travel times.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

There will not be 800,000 "fans" visiting for the Olympics. There will not be 80,000 either.


7 ( +7 / -0 )

If a foreigners need a covid-negative proof to enter Japan, tracing them implies they could become infected while in Japan.

In that case why not tracking everyone so that we can limit the spread?

Even with the app, if, for example, you know that an infected foreigner took a train to somewhere, you don't know who was in that train and who gave it to him/her.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

So unlike Japanese residents who are kindly requested not to do things or go places in Japan’s covid measures, foreign visitors to the Olympics are going to be actually required not to go to places, which will be monitoring by this overpriced app. And then if they are found to have broken their rules what is the penalty- fines, jail or deportation?

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga admitted he was "not aware of the exact figure" to develop the app

One company, nevertheless, made and won the bid in January to develop the app for a gigantic 7.3 billion yen

This is such a blatant scam that I am surprised how this is even possible.

They don't even need to reinvent the wheel. Such apps do exist already. There are probably hundreds of them

First, they could make a use of Google API for Exposure notifications, which most countries use for the tracking apps. It helps cutting the cost, you don't need to invent your own API (and reinvent the wheel). And even if they decided to make their own API and perhaps whole eco-system from scratch (talking something like Wechat, Line or Kakao Talk thing), it would not cost even this much.

Right now, they'll just waste huge sum of money, of which only a fraction will be used to make the app, the rest will just go to the managers and others. And it'll be another useless app with horendous, overbloated design from the 90s with lots of flashy banners with advertisements and so on (take the convenience store apps for example, or even Paypay.. Horrible). And I bet, the security will be also pretty bad.

COCOA has been a huge fail. Their failed implementation of the Google API and the weird DNS requests the app made was just shady.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

and yet still ANOTHER reason to cancel the Olympics

6 ( +8 / -2 )

@JeffLee 6:55a and @Yubaru 7:48a :’One co., made and won the bid in Jan to develop the app for 7.3 billion yen - way before the decision is made.” - Sorry, no ‘transparency’ about these businesses until after ‘the ink is dry’. Good point, @Sandy 8:49a “Jr high kids create apps. Doesn’t cost them billions of yen to do them either.”

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Foreigners will be tracked but not the natives. TIJ.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Just cut crap. Coated in fancy names and lofty ideals..but in the end it's all about policing the foreigner and bringing him to heel.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

They have no intention of allowing foreign spectators, this is just a money wasting excuse.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It will be compulsory for visitors to the Tokyo Games to possess smartphones and also have the app installed. In return, they will in principle be exempted from 14 days of quarantine and be free to use public transport.

7.3 billion....nice pork... and if one asymptomatic foreign visitor forgets his phone and catches a train for a night out , it all goes out the window.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Concerns indeed.

There was a Kyodo article a couple of months ago about a GPS tracking app that would contain visa information, test results and even tickets details. Is all of this necessary for Covid prevention? And how are the authorities going to distinguish between non-Japanese who visit the country for the Olympics and those visiting for other purposes? Why should such a distinction be made to begin with? And, obviously, why won't Japanese people have to be tracked?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

One company, nevertheless, made and won the bid in January to develop the app for a gigantic 7.3 billion yen -- way before the decision is made.

There seems be be a disregard for oversight, indifference to public sentiment, consultation or accountability.

Why was this contract tracing app development project not put out for full competitive tender?

This is tax payer’s money!

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga admitted he was "not aware of the exact figure"

But Suga also said he sees "usages away from the games too."

That statement has an ominous ring to it

So how does that sit with regard to a privacy policy that will fully explain the types of personal information to be collected,  the usage, storage, and how the public will be protected and informed about disclosure of that information to other government agencies?  

Th 2020/21/22/23 Olympics is becoming less of an experience of sporting excellence any domestic fan would want to attend, let alone International guests. And to cap it all you have top pay for the privilege.

One can just turn on the TV. No need for a contact tracing app

10 ( +10 / -0 )

......Wow, the disasters & expenses just never stop do they, this is well beyond obscene!

CANCEL this contract NOW!!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A consortium led by NTT Communications and a few other companies won the bid. Surprise, surprise.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The absurdity of holding the Olympics during a pandemic is only surpassed by the intent to allow unchecked foreigners rambling about. That an event requires an app to track potential disease vectors is beyond ignorant. The entirety is based on a premise that athletes will have been selected, trained, participated in preliminary events to sharpen competitive skills & team work and the infrastructure is in place to conduct the myriad events. Which at this juncture seems mere fantasy and ignores some very harsh realities. The authorities in charge fail to heed the apparent dangers associated with an ever present epidemic. That government officials do not have an active plan to vaccinate the population poste haste speaks to an inability to conduct large events that attend to the entire population. The same are going to put their energy into an enterprise doomed to failure does not speak well to their leadership capacities or ability to identify the most pressing issue(s) which is NOT the Olympics or the design of an app to allow such.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Just wait and see how China will track you! Every visiting foreigner is assigned a chinagirl escort.

Cute chinagirl ? great. Where do I book a ticket?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If they want to trace me visting cat cafe ect go nuts....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A billion here a billion there, pretty soon you start talking about real money!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

None of the government apps have so far worked. They are not supposed too. The only purpose is to sugarcoat the pockets of the friendly companies.

the worse designed the more money for redesign and updates.

what foreign fans anyway ? WHAT Olympics ? 5 months before the start, having had 8 years to prepare and it is an enormous mess. Covid complicated things but it was a mess from the beginning.

5 days in the new job and Hashimoto has crawled under her desk

6 ( +6 / -0 )

It doesn't take 7.3 billion yen to develop an app. Most of the money is going to be kick-backs to the politicians, standard Japanese corruption scheme.

Moreover, Japan lacks the IT and programming talent to make such a complex app, it will undoubtedly be full of bugs and may not even work at all, since the winning bidder (if there's any bidding at all) is just some politically connected company rather than one with any actual competency. Outsourcing it to some 3rd world country will probably lead to a significantly higher quality product, and of course 99% cheaper.

4 ( +4 / -0 )


it's 7.3 billion. 73 Mill for an app would be still too expensive, but this one, 100x times more expensive takes the cake.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


it's 7.3 billion. 73 Mill for an app would be still too expensive, but this one, 100x times more expensive takes the cake.

I think he is talking cost in USD.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Junior high kids create apps. Doesn’t cost them billions of yen to do them either.

Creating the app is the easy part. As you say, Jr. High school kids can do it.

Architecting the app, navigating bureaucracy between multiple government agencies, getting hankos from 10 different people, all who want to put their mark on it for each step of the way; this is the difficult part. Easy to find developers, harder to find people who can handle the client. Budgeting for government clients usually requires a 100% - 300% buffer on costs, to deal with all of the unexpected difficulties and government bureaucracy that will arise. Also notice that due to the scope and requirements of the app, the developer may very well (if they're smart and able to) have large indemnity insurance on this project, to protect them if something goes bad. This cost also has to be factored in. Then there is the hosting for a system that has to track location data for millions of people, as well as distribute the app, process backwards when a case is found to index who needs to be notified, as well as sending out those notifications. Allt his equates to heavy duty (aka expensive) hosting.

The price does seem high. But the costs are significantly more than most people commenting in this thread seem to be aware of. It's definitely not something a high school kid is going to do.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I will refuse to install any type of monitoring system on my phone either here or in the UK.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I wonder what will happen when a not-very-Japanese-looking resident immigrant turns up to watch an event and doesn't have a smartphone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What a waste of money. As every mobile phone is traceable because it is constantly dialing in to the nearest ‘antenna’, also when moving, so you find all the data on the servers of the communication companies and can find anyone with quite a simple query immediately within an area of a few tens or hundreds of meters. Of course only if that person has got a mobile phone and the battery is inside, it can even be switched off.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There won´t be many Olympic fans, so it is much fanfare about nothing.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites