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2014 April 16 - 22 TOP3 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

Allowing US access to Japan’s fingerprint database invades privacy: lawyer

April 21, 2014
Lawyers are criticizing a bill that will enable U.S. investigative authorities to access fingerprint information collected by the Japanese police as an invasion of privacy.

The government proposed the bill based on the Japan-U.S. agreement concluded on February 7 enhancing cooperation in preventing and combating serious crime. The bill was adopted at a plenary session of the House of Representatives on April 17 by supports of all parties other than the Japanese Communist and Social Democratic parties, and sent to the House of Councilors.

If the bill is enacted, U.S. law enforcement agencies will be able to make inquiries through a computer system about a particular fingerprint to the National Police Agency of Japan to see if it has the corresponding information on its database. The database stores the fingerprints of 10.4 million people, or one in twelve Japanese, obtained through criminal investigations.

Of the 10.4 million citizens, 7.4 million already received a final decision of “not guilty” or not to prosecute, JCP lawmaker Akamine Seiken revealed on April 10 at a Lower House Cabinet Committee meeting.

Lawyer Yamashita Yukio, an expert in international criminal law, commenting on the bill said that it is a violation of human rights to provide fingerprint data to the U.S. as it is a vital part of personal information.

In the first place, the Japanese police print database system has a big problem that once someone’s fingermark is registered, the data will be maintained until the owner dies even after his/her innocence is confirmed or the case against the person is dropped, Yamashita pointed out.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations in 1997 issued a statement that it is illegal for the National Police Agency to keep fingerprint data after the person is found innocent.

Lawyer Yamashita stressed that the database, with this huge defect, should not be utilized by the U.S.
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