In the world we live in today, we are called upon in a wide variety of situations to say who we are and to prove it. In Japan, the most common ways of identifying ourselves is to produce a driver’s license, health-insurance card or personal identification number (“My Number”) card. Of course, these identification methods simply provide a number that identifies us uniquely; they are not intended to tell the whole story of who we are. A full picture of each of us as individuals is formed from a wide range of information about our daily activities, such as our movements, the food we eat, how we exercise and our shopping habits, as well as our conversations with others, our hobbies and our interests.
In a telecommunications white paper published in 2017, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC) divided data into four categories. The Ministry positioned data belonging to individuals as one of the most important categories, alongside government and corporate data.
There is a distinction to be drawn between personal information and personal data. These terms are defined as follows.
→ Information about a living person, as defined in Article 2 of the Personal Information Protection Act
→ Personal information plus a wide range of other information with regard to a certain person, including information that cannot be used to identify that person
Personal information is information that identifies an individual. Personal data includes personal information but also includes a much wider range of information about that individual.
Let’s now consider how this personal data is used in the real world.