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AI & SOCIETY

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 327–341 | Cite as

The Japanese sense of information privacy

  • Andrew A. AdamsEmail author
  • Kiyoshi Murata
  • Yohko Orito
Original Article

Abstract

We analyse the contention that privacy is an alien concept within Japanese society, put forward in various presentations of Japanese cultural norms at least as far back as Benedict in The chrysanthemum and the sword: patterns of Japanese culture. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1946. In this paper we distinguish between information privacy and physical privacy. As we show, there is good evidence for social norms of limits on the sharing and use of personal information (i.e. information privacy) from traditional interactions in Japanese society, as well as constitutional evidence from the late 19th century (in the Meiji Constitution of 1889). In this context the growing awareness of the Japanese public about problems with networked information processing by public sector and commercial organisations from the 1980s (when a law governing public sector use of personal information was first passed) to recent years (when that law was updated and a first law governing commercial use of personal information was adopted) are not the imposition or adoption of foreign practices nor solely an attempt to lead Japanese society into coherence with the rest of the OECD. Instead they are drawing on the experience of the rest of the developed world in developing legal responses to the breakdown of social norms governing interchange and use of personal information, stressed by the architectural changes wrought by networked information processing capabilities. This claim is supported by consideration of standard models of Japanese social interactions as well as of Supreme Court judgements declaring reasonable expectations of protection of privacy to hold in Japan.

Keywords

Social Norm Information Privacy Japanese Culture Physical Privacy Informational Privacy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Supported by a Global Research Award from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. Supported by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology within the open research centre project ‘Quality-oriented Human Resource Development and Smart Business Collaboration: Quality Management Science,’ (2007–2012).

Glossary of Japanese: The Japanese words used in the text are given more formal definition here. Note that the definitions here are limited to their use in the paper, while their full linguistic usage may be broader. Order is alphabetic by phonetic spelling in roman letters.

Open image in new window  /himitsu

Secret; secrecy

Open image in new window /hito

Person; another person; someone else. Generalized reference others per Kuwayama (1992)

Open image in new window /honne

True feelings; real motivation. Opposite to Open image in new window /tatemae q.v.

Open image in new window /jibun

Self; oneself. The individual

Open image in new window /jukinet

Abbreviation for jumin kihon daichō q.v.

Open image in new window /jumin kihon daichō

The Basic Residents’ Registration Network. The network of databases supporting the Japanese ID Card, National ID Database and e-government system

Open image in new window /mawari

Surroundings; vicinity. Immediate reference others per Kuwayama (1992)

Open image in new window /miuchi

Family or close social grouping

Open image in new window /naimitsu

Secrecy; privacy

Open image in new window /naisho

A secret

Open image in new window /omote

Front; face; outdoors. External (figuratively). Opposite to Open image in new window /ura q.v.

Open image in new window /puraibashii

A ‘loan word’ from the English ‘privacy’

Open image in new window /seken

The world; society; the way the world is. Reference society per Kuwayama (1992)

Open image in new window /soto

The outside, literally and figuratively. Opposite to Open image in new window /uchi q.v.

Open image in new window /tanin

The other. Outsider. People with whom one has no direct contact, or at least no recurring direct contact. ‘Passing strangers.’ Equivalent to Open image in new window /muen no hito

Open image in new window /tatemae

Outwardly expressed feelings; stated motivation. See also Open image in new window /uso. Opposite to Open image in new window /honne q.v.

Open image in new window /uchi

The inside, literally and figuratively. Opposite to Open image in new window /soto q.v.

Open image in new window /uchiwabanashi

Private discussion; insider’s discussion

Open image in new window /ura

Back; rear. Internal (figuratively). Opposite to Open image in new window /omote q.v.

Open image in new window /uso

Lie; falsehood. In Japanese, this is not as insulting as the English word ‘lie’

Open image in new window /watashi

(Also, and more formally, watakushi). One of multiple Japanese words/characters for ‘I’. Used by both men and women in formal but not humble circumstances. May also be used as an implicit plural ‘we’, also referring to the speaker’s family or close social group, but only where this is unambiguous.

Supplementary material

146_2009_Article_228_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2 mb)
Supplementary material (PDF 1.97 mb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Systems EngineeringUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  2. 2.Centre for Business Information Ethics, School of CommerceMeiji UniversityTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of Law and LettersEhime UniversityMatsuyamaJapan

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