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Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Bugging the alien: a response

Re: Debito Arudou's May 19 Zeit Gist column "IC you: bugging the alien" on the proposed new IC-chipped alien registration cards:

What a Doomsday picture Debito painted! However, given Japanese society's penchant for treating those from outside with a great deal of suspicion, I find myself unable to shake off the feeling that all those predictions could come to pass!

It is worth noting that this IC card for foreigners is not unique to the Japanese. In my own home country, the U.K. government wants to introduce chipped ID cards for everyone, not just immigrants. Though it is up against some tough opposition, it has already introduced cards for immigrants that carry a photo, fingerprints, visa details, place of work, home address, criminal record, etc. — all similar details that the Japanese want to include on the new gaijin cards.

My concern is not with the card per se. After all, we are all guests, effectively, in this country. It is only right we have to play by the rules. Many countries expect foreigners to carry some form of ID. After all, we do not have the same rights as the local populace, and in order to prove what we are entitled to, a handy-dandy piece of plastic saves having to haul round all the necessary paperwork instead.

My major issue is with the penalties and strictness of the system. Two weeks to announce any changes to one's status is not long, particularly when the office could be a considerable distance from one's residence. Also, if the author is to be believed, then some of the categories that count as a "change of status" border on the frivolous and obtuse. It's almost as if the Immigration Bureau has had a total removal of all common sense.

However, on the security side — regarding the possibility that the police (and maybe criminals) could have scanners to read your identity from a distance — there is an easy answer to that. You can go to many good travel stores and buy (I assume, legally) blockers that can be placed in passports to protect their IC chips. Putting a blocker card in your wallet would afford peace of mind that criminals cannot strip your information, and would mean that the police, if they want your information, would actually have to approach you and engage you in communication.

Some police may not fancy this, given that they may not want to deal with a foreigner, whereas others may begin to learn how annoying it all is!



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