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Exclusive: Japan eyes bill for security clearance system

Tokyo, Feb. 21 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s government and ruling bloc are considering introducing a bill in autumn to set up a security clearance system for limiting access to sensitive economic information, Jiji Press learned Monday.

The government plans to adopt economic security promotion legislation at a cabinet meeting as early as Friday. But the measure will not include a security clearance system to certify individuals eligible for handling secret information related to economic security, reflecting concerns about privacy protection.

The government and the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling bloc now aim to submit the security clearance system bill to an extraordinary session of the Diet, the country’s parliament, expected to be held in autumn, in response to requests from the business world.

Security clearance systems check public- and private-sector workers to grant them access to classified information. They are used to prevent leaks of technologies that can be utilized for military purposes and sensitive information.

Such systems are in use in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which together form the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, as well as in major European nations.

In an increasing number of cases, Japanese companies are asked to obtain security clearances when they receive orders for products and offers for joint research from defense and technology companies in these countries.

Earlier this month, the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, the country’s biggest business lobby, proposed that the government introduce “an effective information protection system that other countries can trust.”

Against the backdrop, the government judged it necessary to quickly legislate a security clearance system in order to strengthen industrial and research collaboration with allies and friendly countries and help make Japanese companies more competitive.

But security clearances involve background checks, including on applicants’ families, friends, assets and alcohol history. Some members of Komeito, the LDP’s partner in the ruling coalition, and other people have raised privacy concerns.

“We’ll hold sufficient discussions and collect opinions,” a government source said.

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