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Article Japan: Operator of Online Map of Bankrupt Persons Accused of Violating Personal Information Protection Law

On January 11, 2023, Japan’s Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC) filed a criminal complaint with the police against a person who ran a bankruptcy-tracking website in violation of the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA, Act No. 57 of 2003), which has provisions to criminalize some violations. The website displayed a Google map with names, addresses, and other information concerning persons in Japan who had declared bankruptcy. Any user could conduct a search for the information on the bankrupt persons by using the website’s search feature.

Information on bankrupt individuals is published in the government’s official gazette, including its online edition, so the information is not secret. However, many bankrupt persons have argued that it is much easier to search for such information in the online maps than in the official gazette and that the maps therefore cause greater damage to them.

Similar websites have been run by businesses since 2018. The map operators offered on the websites to delete the information of the bankrupt person for a fee.

In its Guidelines on the PIPA (adopted in November 2016, partially revised in September 2020), the PIPC referred to several PIPA provisions that the map operator in the case at hand violated:

  • Such online maps facilitate illegal discrimination on the basis of bankruptcy records and thus violate article 19 of the PIPA.
  • Map operators are required to notify the subjects about the purpose of collecting the information in accordance with article 21, paragraph 1 of the PIPA.
  • Map operators are required by article 27, paragraph 1 of the PIPA to obtain the consent of the bankrupt persons before making the information on them available to users online.

After the PIPC issued warnings and cease-and-desist orders (PIPA art. 145) to those who ran such websites to halt their operations, they withdrew the services. However, the most recent website, the Shin Hasansha (New Bankrupt Persons) Map, which initiated its service in June 2022, failed to follow the PIPC order of July 2022. The website’s server was located in Canada, and the identity of the operator remained unknown. Therefore, the PIPC used a public notice when it issued the order. The PIPC issued another cease-and-desist order in November 2022, ordering the operator to cease operations immediately, but the website nonetheless continued to operate. A person who violates a cease-and-desist order is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of one million yen (about US$7,550), or both. (Art. 173.) Accordingly, the PIPC filed the criminal complaint with the police.

As of February 6, 2023, the website was not accessible.

Sayuri Umeda, Law Library of Congress
February 17, 2023

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Chicago citation style:

Umeda, Sayuri. Japan: Operator of Online Map of Bankrupt Persons Accused of Violating Personal Information Protection Law. 2023. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2023-02-16/japan-operator-of-online-map-of-bankrupt-persons-accused-of-violating-personal-information-protection-law/.

APA citation style:

Umeda, S. (2023) Japan: Operator of Online Map of Bankrupt Persons Accused of Violating Personal Information Protection Law. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2023-02-16/japan-operator-of-online-map-of-bankrupt-persons-accused-of-violating-personal-information-protection-law/.

MLA citation style:

Umeda, Sayuri. Japan: Operator of Online Map of Bankrupt Persons Accused of Violating Personal Information Protection Law. 2023. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2023-02-16/japan-operator-of-online-map-of-bankrupt-persons-accused-of-violating-personal-information-protection-law/>.