Respecting privacy

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Respecting privacy

The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. 

After the emergency measure was lifted in Japan, I was surprised when I visited the website of a large fast food chain. There were nine notices about reopening after stores were closed due to Covid-19 cases. They said that nine stores had Covid-19 patients. I had never heard about it before.  
So I visited the website of a convenience store, and it also had patients, mostly employees. Eighteen stores were visited by patients. This was never covered in the news, so I felt like I had opened Pandora’s box.
The Japanese government does not release information on Covid-19 cases in detail. Only the district-level residential information and age group are made public, without stating where patients visited and when. Some local governments specify neighborhoods. The cases at the aforementioned fast food chain and convenient stores could have remained secret if the companies did not post them on their websites. Publishing the information is completely at the discretion of the companies or individuals.
The justification is “protection of personal information.” When information about them is released, the individual or company could suffer reputational damage. There was a news story about female students at a school with Covid-19 patients being called “corona.” The Japanese government’s default stance is to not release the information. It chose to keep the majority of people in the dark.  
In Japan, the government’s surveillance of people’s mobile phone information is considered a untouchable, because it is associated with totalitarian policies.
The direction is the opposite from Korea. When a case was confirmed at a club in Itaewon, the city of Seoul checked the communications information from the mobile phones of 10,000 people who had been in the area that day. While some identifying information was released, and a certain individual had been criticized, the spread of the virus has slowed. As a result, Korea has been far more successful in tracing the chains of infections than Japan.
Every country is contemplating the limits placed on government surveillance and control of information. Citizens’ voluntary sacrifices to live in a safer and more pleasant community are creating a healthy, supervised society. Many countries have joined the trend.
Instead of debating whether to allow surveillance, it’s time to talk about creating a system to use information for public interests that prevents the abuse of information. In Japan, those who prefer to yield the control of information to the government are more prevalent.  
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