Fingerprinting: Tokyo Demo Amnesty/SMJ Nov 20, Signature Campaign by Privacy International


Hi Blog. Forwarding with permission. Arudou Debito

—– Original Message —–
From: “toshimaru ogura”
Sent: Tuesday, November 06, 2007 16:25
Subject: Urgent action against Japan US-VISIT

Dear friends,

I am toshi, a co-president of People’s Plan Study Group (PPSG). As you know Japanese government will implement new immigration control system of finger printing and face scanning. We have two actions against the plan. One is an international signature organized by Privacy International. Another one is a demonstration in front of DOJ office at noon on Nov 20 organized by Amnesty International Japan and Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ). I will inform in detail more about the demonstration soon.

I attach the statement from Privacy International. This signature is for organizations not for individuals. I hope your organization approves and signs on for the statement.

Address for sign on Gus Hosein, Privacy International

best wishes,
People’s Plan Study Group

The Rt Honourable Kunio Hatoyama
Minister of Justice
1-1-1 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Nippon

November 6, 2007

Dear Minister Hatoyama:

Regarding plans to fingerprint and face-scan all visitors to Japan

We, the undersigned human rights and civil liberties groups from around the world are writing to you to express our grave concerns regarding the Ministry of Justice’s imminent implementation of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

We believe that your plans to fingerprint and face-scan visitors and foreign-residents to Japan are a gross and disproportionate infringement upon civil liberties, copying the worst practices on border management from around the world.

We call on you to reconsider your plans to implement this system. We also call on you to explain to the world why they should travel to your country and face these inconveniences when you have done so little to explain the nature of this human processing.


According to your plans for Immigration Control:

“In order to detect and oust, at the border, terrorists or foreign nationals who have been deported from Japan or committed crimes, one effective method is to further enhance measures against forged and falsified documents and to utilize biometrics in immigration examinations. In order to take facial portraits and fingerprint data during landing examinations of foreign nationals under the “Action Plan for Prevention of Terrorism” (as adopted at the Headquarters for Promotion of Measures Against Transnational Organized Crime and Other Relative Issues and International Terrorism on December 10, 2004), necessary preparations will be made by putting in order points for us to keep in mind, observing relevant measures taken by foreign countries and developing relevant law.”1

It has come to our attention that you plan to implement this system within a matter of weeks where you will face-scan and fingerprint all visitors to Japan and retain this information for an extended period of time (some reports claim that you intend to do so for up to 80 years), and combine it with other sources of personal information.

Infringing upon the Right to Privacy

Your plans are in breach of individuals’ human rights, and in particular, their right to privacy. The right to privacy is recognized specifically by numerous international human rights treaties. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right to privacy under Article 12. Similar language is adopted in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under Article 17, the United Nations (UN) Convention on Migrant Workers in Article 14, and the UN Convention on Protection of the Child under Article 16. We note that the Japanese Supreme Court has recognized the right to privacy under Article 13 of the Japanese Constitution.

Your system proposes to indiscriminately collect sensitive personal information from all foreign travellers. This mass project for the processing of human beings is tantamount to treating all visitors to your country as though they were criminals.

We are surprised by the lack of information regarding proposed safeguards and appeal methods. Instead we are given rhetoric about the importance of combatting terrorism and promises to force the return of anyone who fails to comply with this new requirement.

The protection of human rights is at its weakest when individuals are waiting for entry at the border of foreign country. Traditionally, governments afforded respect to visitors from other nations under the guise of reciprocity: if you treat our citizens with respect we will treat yours similarly. Japan is showing a remarkable level of disrespect to the dignity of your tourists and foreign business travellers by collecting detailed information on them, in an indiscriminate manner as a condition of entry, with no promise of safeguards, or means of appeal.

A Complex and Risky System

The collection of all this personal information and its centralisation into databases will create privacy risks, and will also lead to likely security risks.

We believe that Japan is making a grave mistake by following the path forged by the United States of America with its US-VISIT programme. Until the implementation of your system, the U.S. was alone in the world in fingerprinting and face-scanning all visitors and retaining this information for vast periods of time. Years into their programme we can now all see that the U.S. should serve as a cautionary tale rather than as an example for best practice.

The US-VISIT system was approved in a similar manner to the Japanese system. That is, it was approved through a highly political environment with little public debate and policy deliberation. In the U.S., the government relied on its rhetoric about fighting terrorism and crime instead of careful policy development and deployment. Now, years later, the US-VISIT system is finally receiving some of its much needed oversight, and the reality of advanced border systems is becoming clear. According to U.S. Government reports, we now are seeing that:

. after spending 1.3 billion over 4 years, only half the system is delivered.2

. expenditures continue on projects that “are not well-defined, planned, or justified on the basis of costs, benefits, and risks”, lacking “a sufficient basis for effective program oversight and accountability”.3

. the U.S. government has “continued to invest in US-VISIT without a clearly defined operational context that includes explicit relationships with related border security and immigration enforcement initiatives”.4

. “management controls to identify and evaluate computer and operational problems were insufficient and inconsistently administered” and thus “continues to face longstanding US-VISIT management challenges and future uncertainties” as it continues to “fall short of expectations”.5

. “lacking acquisition and financial management controls”, and project managers have failed to “economically justify its investment in USVISIT increments or assess their operational impacts”, “had not assessed the impact of the entry and exit capabilities on operations and facilities, in part, because the scope of the evaluations performed were too limited.”6

. “contracts have not been effectively managed and overseen”.7

. and finally, security “weaknesses collectively increase the risk that unauthorized individuals could read, copy, delete, add, and modify sensitive information, including personally identifiable information, and disrupt the operations of the US-VISIT program.” According to the chairman of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senator Joseph Lieberman, the U.S. government “is spending $1.7 billion of taxpayer money on a program to detect potential terrorists crossing our borders yet it isn’t taking the most basic precautions to keep them from hacking into and changing or deleting sensitive information.”8

It is therefore of little surprise that the U.S. border systems occasionally fail. On a number of occasions the U.S. border systems have broken down resulting in thousands of people being forced to wait until the system problems could be worked out. For instance, in August 2007, 20,000 travellers were left stranded at Los Angeles airport, with travellers spending the night on the airport floors and planes being prevented from even coming into the gates for passengers to de-plane because the airport was overwhelmed.9

More stories are emerging from around the world where weak security protocols have made personal information held on visa databases widely available to the public and potential identity thieves, 10 and fingerprint mismatches have lead to gross injustices. Without competent planning and care, visitors to Japan have no reason to be confident that their personal information that they are forced to disclose will be adequately protected by your system.

Towards Effective Border Management?

Japan should be careful not to follow the U.S. lead. Recent surveys have shown that the U.S. is now rated worst place to visit for its immigration and entry procedures, followed by the Middle East.11

There are better ways of greeting visitors to your country than treating tourists and business travelers as though they were terrorists. There are privacy-friendly ways of identifying criminals at borders, and there are more and more effective ways of using biometric data without invading the privacy of all visitors and making them vulnerable to identity theft through the leakage of data from your systems.

In our experiences, technological systems fail most when they do not get adequate policy deliberation. We also believe that immigration policy is a complex domain that rarely gets the necessary attention and deliberative care that it deserves. Your plans to fingerprint and face-scan every visitor to your country appears to exemplify this risk. It is unfortunate that we could not offer our views earlier but your consultation was only conducted in Japanese.

Your plans will likely damage Japan’s standing in the world, make a wonderful and beautiful country less inviting to tourists, and will unnecessarily hurt Japan’s role as global economic leader. If serious changes to your plans are not made, we worry that a boycott of travel to Japan will be the only way to ensure that your government has planned sufficiently to cater for the privacy and security interests of global travellers.

Please reconsider your plans. Also, please note, that if you move down this path, others may well follow and will start fingerprinting your own citizens on the grounds that you do it to theirs. These systems will likely be as complex, risky, and insecure as yours. This is not the type of world that you, your citizens, or we would like to live in.

Yours sincerely,

Privacy International [other signatories here in alphabetical order]

1 Ministry of Justice, ‘Basic Plan for Immigration Control (3rd Edition) provisional translation’, Section 3: Major Issues and Guidelines on Immigration Control Administration Services.
2 Government Accountability Office, Prospects For Biometric US-VISIT Exit Capability Remain Unclear, July 28, 2007, GAO-07-1044T.
3 Government Accountability Office, ‘U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Programs: Long-standing Lack of Strategic Direction and Management Controls Needs to Be Addressed’ , August 2007, GAO-07-1065.
4 Government Accountability Office, ‘Planned Expenditures for U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Program Need to Be Adequately Defined and Justified’, February 2007, GAO-07-278.
5 Government Accountability Office, ‘US-VISIT Program Faces Operational, Technological, and Management Challenges’, March 20, 2007, GAO-07-623T.
6 Government Accountability Office, US-VISIT Has Not Fully Met Expectations and Longstanding Program Management Challenges Need to Be Addressed, February 16, 2007, GAO-07-499T.
7 Government Accountability Office, ‘Contract Management and Oversight for Visitor and Immigrant Status Program Need to Be Strengthened’, June 2006, GAO-06-404.
8 ‘Lieberman Cites Vulnerability of Terrorism Tracking Data’, August 3, 2007, statement available at
9 ‘Mayor calls for Probe of LAX Computer Crash’, CBS, August 13, 2007.
10 ‘Security concerns hit web visa applications’, Joe Churcher, The Scotsman, May 18, 2007.
11 ‘How to help the huddled masses through immigration’, Gideon Rachman, Financial Times, March 12, 2007.

toshimaru ogura

4 comments on “Fingerprinting: Tokyo Demo Amnesty/SMJ Nov 20, Signature Campaign by Privacy International

  • “[…] a demonstration in front of DOJ office at noon on Nov 20 […]”

    The 20th is a Tuesday. As most people work, may will find it difficult to attend. Make it sometime on the weekend and there may be more turnout.

  • I was wondering about that. There would be a bigger turnout on a weekend, but the I doubt there will be too many people in the DOJ office at noon on a Saturday. A protest in front of an empty building may not be too effective.

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