Socio‐cultural analysis of personal information leakage in Japan

Publication Date27 June 2008
Date27 June 2008
AuthorYohko Orito,Kiyoshi Murata
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
Socio-cultural analysis of personal
information leakage in Japan
Yohko Orito
Faculty of Law and Letters, Ehime University, Matsuyama, Japan, and
Kiyoshi Murata
Centre for Business Information Ethics, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to analyse incidents of personal information leakage in Japan
based on Japanese socio-cultural characteristics of information privacy and to consider how best to
develop an effective personal information protection policy that conforms to Japanese situations as
well as to the global requirement of personal information protection.
Design/methodology/approach After describing recent incidents of personal information leakage
in Japan, the paper examines the defects of the Act on Protection of Personal Information (APPI) that
permit these incidents to continue. Subsequently, these incidents and the responses of the Japanese
people in a manner that reflects the unique Japanese socio-cultural characteristics of information privacy
are analysed. Finally, the paper proposes a revision of APPI that conforms to these Japanese
socio-cultural characteristics as well as to the global requirement for personal information protection.
Findings – Personal information leakage cases and social responses in Japan reflect three Japanese
socio-cultural characteristics: Uchi /Soto awareness, insular collectivism an d Hon’ne/Tatemae
tradition. An effective law protecting personal information in Japan’s cultural environment cannot
be made simply by copying the privacy protection laws in western nations. Instead, legal protection of
personal information should be drafted that reflects and takes into account these socio-cultural
Originality/value – This paper conducts analysis of incidents of personal information leakage in
Japan based on Japanese socio-cultural characteristics. A revision of APPI is proposed on the basis of
the analysis. The paper’s analysis and proposal would provide a good clue to develop effective
measures to protect personal information and the right to information privacy in the global,
multicultural information society.
Keywords Database managementsystems, Data security, Informationcontrol, Privacy, Legislation,
Paper type Research paper
In step with the increasing development and use of personal information databases in
Japan, which are effective for both public and private organisations to attain high levels
of customer satisfaction, is a significant increase in reports of personal information
leakage since the middle of 1990s. These incidents have caused anxiety among the
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The authors appreciate really helpful suggestions about improvement of this paper provided by
Dr Kenneth Einar Himma, the Editor of this volume. The authors also express their gratitude to
Dr Andrew A. Adams of University of Reading for his support. This study was supported by an
open research centre project for private universities entitled “Quality-oriented human resource
development and smart business collaboration: quality management science”: a matching fund
subsidy was provided by The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology,
leakage in Japan
Journal of Information,
Communication & Ethics in Society
Vol. 6 No. 2, 2008
pp. 161-171
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/14779960810888365

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