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On the Use of Digital Identity in Asia (2) – Digital Identity in Japan & Malaysia

Following the previous article about Taiwan’s eID, in this article, we will have a look at the non-mandatory digital ID in Japan and mandatory myKad in Malaysia.

Non-mandatory Digital ID Cards: My Number card in Japan

All residents in Japan, including foreign nationals, are issued a unique 12-digit Social Security and Tax Number known as “My Number.” Residents may request a physical My Number card to access various online administrative services, such as the online tax portal e-Tax. The card contains photo identification and a chip for online identification.

An estimated 25 million My Number cards have been issued since its introduction in January 2016, accounting for about 20 percent of Japan’s population. The Japanese government aims to encourage adoption by setting up a Digital Agency in 2021 and by expanding the areas in which the My Number card may be used. By March 2021, users will be able to add their healthcare insurance information to their My Number card. Driver’s license information is also projected to be incorporated into the My Number card in the near future.

Mandatory Digital ID Cards: MyKad in Malaysia

The MyKad is a multifunctional national registration identity card issued to all Malaysian citizens aged 12 and above. It contains photo identification as well as a chip, which stores information such as the bearer’s name, address, religion (for Muslims subjected to the Islamic law), and fingerprint minutiae. It functions as a form of digital identification when users access services like the Inland Revenue Board, Malaysia’s online tax portal.

In addition to being an identification card, MyKad also functions as a driver’s license. After MyKad was launched, a copy of the information in the driver’s license is also stored in its chip, though regular driver’s licenses have been still issued.

However, one needs to have a regular driver’s license to obtain an international driving permit. In response, in September 2018, the Road Transport Department Malaysia issued an executive order to prohibit “mandatory” import of the driver’s license data into MyKad.

In terms of domestic travel in Malaysia, MyKad works like a Taiwan's EasyCard, which can be topped up. With the card, drivers can pay tolls. Also, MyKad can replace the passport and serve as the identification document when taking domestic flights.

Users may also opt to store basic health information like blood type and chronic disease history in the MyKad chip. In case of emergencies, doctors and paramedics can offer appropriate medical aid right away.

Since the introduction of MyKad in 2001, Malaysia has revved up its engine in digitally transforming the country with a new National Digital Identity Initiative (NDI). The government aims to roll out a biometric digital identification that can be used to update documents, set up bank accounts, and even enroll children in schools, all with the use of a smart device.

Malaysia’s National Digital ID Study Task Force organized a study from November 2019 to July 2020 to gauge public opinion through a survey on the website of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

Data security remains a top concern for some Malaysians because the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (PDPA) is inadequate in providing well-rounded data security. Also, while the PDPA is able to regulate the use of personal data in the private sector, it cannot be enforced in the public sector. In other words, the use of personal data by the Malaysian government or by government organizations is not regulated by the PDPA, which might pose a data security risk.

Lawyer Louis Liaw from the Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership agrees that the NDI will make the lives of Malaysians more convenient because of high internet and smartphone penetration. However, he also believes that there should be legislation in place to regulate the NDI framework to strengthen the people’s confidence in the government’s ability to protect their personal data. “Something is needed to regulate the government,” the lawyer said, bu he remained optimistic about the benefits the initiative would bring to Malaysia.

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11 February 2021

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