Terrie's Take 776 -- The Right To Be Forgotten, in Japan. E-biz news from Japan.
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Oct 13 14:38:22 JST 2014
* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.
General Edition Sunday, October 12, 2014, Issue No. 776
- What's New -- The Right To Be Forgotten, in Japan
- News -- Money laundering legislation in the works
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies -- Community Manager position
- Upcoming Events
- Travel Picks -- Anime in Akihabara, Samurai movies in Yamagata
- News Credits
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
An interesting court judgment about Google searches and privacy rights
took place here in Japan a couple of days ago. The Tokyo District
Court ordered Google to remove search results that implied the man was
connected to a criminal organization ten years ago. Google hasn't said
they will appeal the decision to a higher court, so we imagine that
they will comply with the order. This case is important because it
appears to be echoing the finding in a European court earlier this
year that private individuals have a right to be forgotten.
The case brings up three key points that we think will become
increasingly debated as people start to realize the implications of
them. Firstly, should people have a right to be forgotten? After all,
if they did something illegal, shouldn't others have the right to know
it, so that they are forewarned? Secondly, is it fair to force Google
to be the recipient of these take-down requests, when it is simply
indexing something that is on the web anyway? Thirdly, is the Japanese
decision really saying that its private citizens have a right to be
What we are not going to discuss today is the right to freedom of
speech, since that concept is already in the mainstream and what we
are trying to define with this Take is why there might need to be
1. The right to be forgotten.
Laws about the right to be forgotten are well established in the
western world, and at the core reflect the value and ideal of
rehabilitation. We can all imagine the difficulties an ex-convict
faces trying to keep their past private (different to them concealing
the fact) when applying for a job. It is doubtful many companies will
hire someone, even after a 20-year hiatus, if they know the applicant
had done time. We hired an ex-con once, and it took a lot of will
power to overlook his past, it's a very real deciding factor.
But the right to be forgotten is not just the domain of ex-cons. At a
thousand lesser levels the same need for rehabilitation applies to the
rest of us. For example, if you as a younger person couldn't pay your
taxes, in some countries like the USA the authorities might display on
the internet your delinquency until you do pay. Fair enough. However,
years later, when you're applying for a home loan, even though you may
have long-since paid those taxes, the home lender can still do an
Experian search (which now include internet results, not just official
records) and discover your past record, to your detriment.
Actually, this is problematic for MOST of the population, since there
are few of us who don't have some personal blemish on our records, be
it overdue taxes, disputed loans, bitter divorces, medical problems,
traffic violations, unpopular religious affiliations, sexual
orientation, and a multitude of other personal issues that can and do
occur in our lives. We not only prefer to keep these things private,
you really have to ask if others really have a right to know such
information far beyond the immediate event, given that such knowledge
may actively hurt the person being exposed for years afterward. For
example, does a tax payment delay in 2004 justify being banned from
working for a company 10 years later? This is disproportionate
There is a really good piece on this problem from Forbes columnist
Joseph Steinberg: http://onforb.es/1sF08o4.
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Moral issues aside, there is also the practical issue of the sheer
numbers of people who have a background they don't want to share. We
said it is "most" of us. Did you know that in the USA, 30% of the
adult working population, about 65m people, have a criminal record?
Yes, there are murderers and pedophiles in this number, but mostly
these are people who didn't pay a traffic fine or who got busted for
recreational drugs, etc. Add to this group those who have "negative"
personal events (divorces, being outed, etc.), then we are talking
about more than half the adult population.
Although Japan probably has fewer people with criminal records, public
disclosure about lesser personal events can provoke equally negative
reactions. For example, the reaction of private schools to divorced
parents, or background checks of birthplace by conservative families
on prospective brides and grooms. 27% of Japanese adults get divorced
and most of them don't want the fact publicly known. We don't know how
many Japanese are untouchables, or have tax and similar problems, but
would imagine from the Kamei loans moratorium numbers, that the
financial problems number must exceed 3-4m people (1.3m bad loans last
year, and probably twice as many tax actions).
Outside of the Internet, officialdom in developed nations has long
sanctioned the idea that past transgressions and events should be
forgotten or forgiven. This is what the statute of limitations is all
about. This legal concept is based on English common law and prior to
that in Greek law (so it's an ancient tradition). Most developed
nations divide the limits to legal action according to the severity of
the transgression, with capital and severe criminal offenses having
longer periods than minor crimes and civil cases -- and with the
differences being based on the customs of each country. Tax offices
for example have a limit on the period beyond which they can make
claims on past disputes, usually a biblical seven years. Here in
Japan, companies are only required to keep records for seven years and
after that, whatever happened is cast on the trash pile of history.
2. Targeting Google
Google and other internet players repeatedly parrot that they are not
active proponents in how search results are displayed, saying that
they are merely reflecting what already exists on the internet. We
think this is highly disingenuous, for not only is Google suddenly
taking what should be local knowledge and impressions and making it
global (bigger audience, bigger damage) but they also take it out of
context. Further, Google has this little thing called "cached"
content, which allows them to replay content even after the source has
disappeared. This goes far beyond merely aggregated already existing
data, and in our minds clearly puts Google in the role of publisher.
Anyway, taking things out of local context can be highly damaging.
Usually as a member of a community you want to know WHY did a company
owner get behind on their taxes? "Oh, it's because his/her biggest
client went bust? Well, that's not so bad then..." Context lets us
decide whether the person who is the subject of those searches is
really culpable and whether we really want to associate with them.
This is next to impossible to do if you're someone from the other side
of the world looking to do business with the said businessperson, then
reading something disturbing about them after a Google search.
Actually, in much the same vein, there is also the issue of whether
the claims being made by the other party (if not official records) are
for real or from a malignant source? For example, in the case of the
Japanese businessman who won the court judgment against Google, he
could well have been the victim of searches originally drawn from
2-Channel ("Ni-Channeru"), a notorious site where participants often
make stuff up to hurt others. A Google search does of course tell you
it's 2-channel, but would someone using Google translation and based
outside Japan know that this site is infamous for false claims and
that the Japanese authorities have tried a number of times to shut it
down but can't because it relocated to Singapore? No.
Or, maybe a jealous ex-wife who wants to embarrass him to leverage
more alimony out of him. With the advent of Google, and no way of
controlling how they present their search results, almost anything can
be (and is) contrived and posted on a JPY5,000 per month rental server
at Livedoor. Then, once the aggrieved party's claims are out in public
view, people start clicking to read the salacious facts, Google
promotes the link higher in the search results as a result, and in a
few days only the most lurid and titillating links appear on related
searches. This is just plain wrong and leaves innocent people
vulnerable to the machinations of ruthless individuals with a stronger
understanding of Google and its search algorithms. Yes, even now in
the age of the internet it is the court of law that defines guilt, not
the court of public opinion.
Freedom of speech advocates say that there are still legal options if
someone doesn't like what Google throws up as search results, and
indeed, the Spanish court ruling and now the Tokyo District Court
ruling show that both individuals decided the harm was bad enough that
they pursued this course. But the fact is that not only is this area
of law difficult to pin down, being very similar to defamation, but
that it is incredibly expensive to pursue as well. We don't know what
the Tokyo claimant is paying in legal fees, but we imagine it's at
least JPY5m-JPY10m. If he'd been in the USA, the starting point would
have been a US$100,000 deposit. Not so many people have this kind of
spare cash to throw around.
Not only that, but until the Spanish case, Google rather deplorably
used to require any legal claim to ONLY be heard at the Santa Clara
County Court, near their headquarters. While this is standard
procedure in company-to-company agreements, it's extremely unfair to
consumers. Google regularly receives legal claims knowing that very
few people have the resources to pursue a court case in the U.S.
against a legal team the size of Google's. It is certainly not a level
playing field, and justice against Google for most people is a figment
of the imagination. (For commentary on Google's legal strategy in this
regard, see http://bit.ly/1ENpLYK). At least now with these court
cases, they are being forced to be legally responsible in the many
jurisdictions they are making money in.
Then, even with the ability to pursue matters personally, like
defamation cases, once the negative mental connections are made, the
damage is done. It's hard to undo the subconscious "knowledge" of the
public. Yes, this situation existed long before the internet, but the
fact is that in the past only major media organizations were able to
spread defamation beyond a small community. As professional
organizations they have their own rules in deciding what potentially
defamatory content is broadcast and what is not. While not necessarily
any fairer, it does at least mean a professional team will consider
risk management and be legally liable for that decision. On the
internet, a bitter ex-wife/ex-husband or obsessed ex-business partner
are hardly going to be making the same calm decisions.
3. Japan's stance on the right to be forgotten
Possibly the most important thing to understand about the Tokyo ruling
against Google is that Japan is not necessarily yet following in the
footsteps of the European ruling, although it may initially appear
that they are. We are not lawyers but we have enough experience with
commercial law to know that the wording in a number of reports where
the judge says that, "...some of the search results 'infringe personal
rights,' and had harmed the plaintiff," is very important. Harm
suffered by a plaintiff is a key consideration in Japan. You won't
normally get a favorable ruling from a Japanese court in a libel case
unless you can prove harm. In this particular case, the individual had
received death threats and we think this was the motivating factor for
the judge to find in favor.
Since without those death threats the court would have been simply
deciding on the merit of right to be forgotten, and Japanese judges do
not like to make risky judgments that set new precedents (bad for your
career), we don't see a sudden flood of similarly favorable rulings
yet. However, clearly the lawyer in this case was smart enough to
introduce the consensus-building concept of the European legal policy,
as well as a watertight source of "damage". Because of this confluence
of factors, and the fact that the Japanese elite really do like their
privacy, we can imagine an increase in claims happening as an
outgrowth of this case. In particular, we can see cases that will
involve politicians and attempts to stop Google from replaying
2-Channel postings. If correct, then Google had better get ready for a
growing torrent of specific link removal requests.
...The information janitors/
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- Philippines pushing public-private investment
- More visa relaxation changes on the way
- Money laundering legislation in the works
- More social welfare hits on the elderly
- Melanoma treatments using iPS cells
=> Philippines pushing public-private investment
The Philippines is making 16 new public-private partnership (PPP)
projects available for Japanese investment over the next 12 months.
They include the operation and maintenance of airports, rail, prisons,
ports, and water supply projects. Many of the projects are valued at
the US$500m-US$1bn range, and therefore constitute major new
opportunities for firms looking at their home market (in Japan) fade
away. ***Ed: Major opportunities beckon Japanese companies. For
example, a full 17% of Philippines national road network is still
unpaved.** (Source: TT commentary from inquirer.net, Oct 11, 2014)
=> More visa relaxation changes on the way
The government appears really serious about its commitment to getting
tourist numbers up to 20m a year, which would double the current
contribution of inbound tourism to 1% of GDP. Last week it was relaxed
visas for Indonesian citizens and this week it is multiple entry visas
for Chinese able to prove sufficient income at home. The visas will
allow China's wealthy and working professionals to come to Japan as
often as they like for the period of the visa validity. Although there
is such a visa already, it requires the recipients to spend at least
one night in Okinawa, or Tohoku. This requirement will be eliminated.
970,000 visas were issued to Chinese last year, of which 45,044 were
for multiple entry. (Source: TT commentary from japantimes.co.jp, Oct
=> Money laundering legislation in the works
Giving way to pressure from the Paris-based Financial Action Task
Force (FATF), Japan's bureaucrats have lodged proposed anti-money
laundering legislation with the diet. Originally to be voted on late
this year, it looks like the new bills will have to wait until early
next year to be voted on and passed. According to FATF concerns, Japan
is too lax about bank transfers under JPY2m, and also doesn't make
laundering conspiracy a criminal act. But local lawmakers think the
proposed legislation is a trojan horse for more government and
international control over the citizenry. ***Ed: We agree with the
local doubters about this legislation -- JPY2m is NOT a meaningful
amount in the big world of money laundering, and this push to pass the
new laws seems to have a more suspicious motive to it.** (Source: TT
commentary from reuters.com, Oct 9, 2014)
=> More social welfare hits on the elderly
The inevitable is finally being discussed and looks like becoming
legislation next year. The special health insurance payment discounts
for those aged 75 and over look like they will be removed, putting the
elderly on the same footing as everyone else, in having to pay the
first 30% of any medical treatment they receive. The proposal comes
from the health ministry and will affect around 1.7m people,
potentially saving the government JPY80bn a year. ***Ed: In addition,
and probably of greater interest to many of our readers, health
insurance premiums are likely to INCREASE for those earning more than
JPY14.5m a year. If you fall in that category, you may want to drop
your base salary below that amount, and look for other non-taxable
benefits instead.** (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.com, Oct 11,
=> Melanoma treatments using iPS cells
A group of researchers at Kanagawa's St. Marianna University School of
Medicine, in collaboration with Tokyo's Jikei, are working on applying
iPS stem cells to melanoma skin cancer lesions, to neutralize
cancerous cells. The melanoma still needs to be removed in the usual
manner, normally by surgery, but whereas in the past any remaining
cells would be treated over a long period with various cancer-fighting
drugs, those toxic preparations will now be replaced with the
patient's own stem cells. Research shows that within 20 days, the new
cells can be actively protecting the patient from additional spread of
the melanoma. ***Ed: As a side benefit, the treatment may also restore
the skin color of sufferers of vitiligo to its normal black, rather
than blotchy patches of white.** (Source: TT commentary from
nikkei.com, Oct 12, 2014)
NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days
of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the
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Registration/Cancellation Deadline: Mon, Oct 20, 2014
Speaker: Dean Foster (President and Founder, DFA Intercultural Global
Solutions), Monica Merz (President and CEO, Toys"R"Us Japan)
Hosting Committee(s): Chubu - Business Programs, Chubu - External
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Guest Fee: ¥5000
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+++ WEB CONTENT/TECH VACANCIES
=> Are you in web content, sales, or engineering- If so, this section
is for you.
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- Community manager
www.japantravel.com's "special sauce" as a travel website is its
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+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS
------------------ ICA Event - October 16th ---------------
Speaker: Rei Hasegawa, Head of Corporate Communications, Japan and
APAC Social Media at LinkedIn Japan
Title: "Branding You"
Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
Date: Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members) Open to all. No
sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: By 10am on Monday 13th October 2014, venue is The Foreign
Correspondents' Club of Japan
=> No feedback or corrections this week.
+++ TRAVEL DESTINATIONS PICKS
=> Anime Shops of Akihabara
Since the 2000s, Akihabara is a mecca
Akihabara Electric Town is all too well known for the sale of its
namesake on nearly every street corner. Yet while buying cheaper
electronics and their individual parts draw in lots of people, I tend
to think that its current burst in popularity is due to the
cultivation of its anime culture. For those of you who might not know,
anime, in a nutshell, is Japanese animation in the form of television
shows, video games and comic books ("manga").
In my most recent visit, I noticed more foreigners than usual, so this
can only mean word has gotten out about Akihabara's semi-mecca status
for anime fans. If you consider yourself a super fan looking for
merchandise, then you should definitely make Akihabara one of your top
spots to visit. The Tokyo Anime Center (in Japanese), located at the
UDX Building, has events and exhibitions going on throughout the
month. It also has its own shop, which has a smaller variety of anime
and might be a tad bit pricier than other stores.
=> Shonai Eigamura in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata-ken
Where Japan's Samurai Movies are Made
Ever wanted to slip back in time and join fearless samurai cohorts
staging their bloody clan feuds in Edo era Japan? All you need to do
is buy a ticket for the Shonai Eigamura movie village and you are at
the center of the scene, literally, at this open movie set in the
countryside of Yamagata Prefecture.
Add some Japanese props to a Wild West ghost town and Hollywood comes
to you in Japan. The movie village, an area as large as 20 Tokyo
Domes, houses in fact three Edo-style sets: a mountain village, a
fishing village and a postal town along an imaginary "highway" of old.
Most of the buildings, after closer inspection, turn out to have a
frontal facade only; and their doors lead to the expanse of nature
behind the set.
Nestled in a valley with the majestic peak of Mount Gassan in the back
and the Yamagata plains stretching to the shores of the Sea of Japan
in front, this nature-bound movie set provides the perfect backdrop
for a number of Japan's most recent samurai dramas.
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+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)
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