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Saturday, April 26, 2003

Personal info bills OK'd by Lower House panel


Staff writer

A package of controversial bills aimed at protecting personal information was approved Friday by a special committee of the Lower House.

The bills are expected to be endorsed by the Lower House sometime after the Golden Week holidays and then sent to the Upper House.

The package is one of two key pieces of legislation the government hopes to enact by the end of the Diet session, which runs through mid-June.

In Friday's session, the special committee also scrapped an alternative proposal jointly submitted by four opposition parties that would establish a third-party body to deal with complaints over application of the information laws.

Meanwhile, all parties except for the Social Democratic Party endorsed a supplementary resolution, which makes clear that the laws will not be applied to publishing companies that collect personal information for the purpose of news reporting.

The resolution also calls for reviewing the implementation of the laws in three years and for quick enactment of other laws designed to cover medical and financial sectors, which deal with particularly sensitive private information.

The government-sponsored bills were proposed to protect personal information held by government bodies and private companies that store and sell personal data.

The government-sponsored bills, if enacted, would require private businesses to make the purpose of collecting information clear and notify people when obtaining personal data.

The bills would also require government bodies to clarify the purpose of collecting private data, prohibit use of the data for other purposes and punish public servants if they leak, steal or sell such information.

Since the bills were originally submitted to the Diet last year, media companies and journalists have expressed concern that, as originally written, they could be used to obstruct the reporting of scandals involving influential politicians.

Faced with this criticism, the original bills were scrapped. In revising them, the ruling camp dropped the controversial "five basic principles," which required all parties handling personal information to "clarify the purpose" of its use and to acquire information in "an appropriate manner."

The revised bills would not be applied to broadcasters, newspapers, news agencies, journalists, writers.



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