Japan’s planned replacement of health insurance cards for the troubled “My Number” card is facing more backlash in light of government data breaches. Data failures have magnified the problems with the ”My Number” card, which was reported to have caused a mix-up of card holders’ data.   

Setting in doubt for Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, he has called for the country’s national ID cards to be reviewed.

Despite the alleged data mishandling by the government, Japan’s leadership is still driving digital transformation and mandating all citizens to have an ID. The “My Number” ID card, a 12-digit unique number issued to every citizen, facilities use of numerous services and now healthcare services.

Prime Minister Kishida made opening remarks during a press conference where he pledged conducting “a comprehensive inspection” of all data that can be viewed on Mynaportal as well as in relation to other government systems.

One of the challenges that “My Number” card faced was the mix up of multiple IDs and personal data with accounts of family members instead of the rightful user. Card holders were incentivised to adopt the card with a government programme offering citizens to collect shopping points using the card as a way of increasing adoption. The issuance of cards was also deeply flawed that Prime Minister Kishida admitted.

The healthcare sector has been particularly vocal against the phasing out of healthcare cards and the government’s misjudged confidence of ensuring precise registration methods.

Setting policy goals following the Great Earthquake of Eastern Japan and nuclear power plant explosions, optimising the power of data was carefully aligned with ensuring transparency and government trust.

Kishida expressed the government is taking “seriously public concerns about the abolishment of health insurance cards next fall” which has broadly been rejected. Meanwhile, findings show that public support PM Kishida’s premiership is dwindling, his cabinet losing 12 percentage points to 33%.

Japan’s data privacy law, Protection of Personal Information (APPI), was revised on June 5, 2020 under former prime minster Yoshihide Sug.

The expansion of “My Number” cards across Japan will be implemented in 2024, while healthcare cards will remain in use until 2025.

“We will use this (grace) period to dispel public anxiety” he said.

He responded in the Q&A to objections of abolishing health insurance cards, saying:

“Today, the My Number Information Comprehensive Inspection Headquarters will be set up within the government, and the entire government will conduct a comprehensive inspection of all data that can be viewed on Mynaportal. In the future, we will create a mechanism to prevent new error cases from occurring. Then, we will take careful measures to dispel public anxiety. We have decided to strongly promote these efforts”.

Kishida’s speech attempted to encourage focus on Japan’s digitalisation and reform strategy rather than data mismanagement.