Japan proposes law to classify more information as confidential

Credit: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO

TOKYO, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Japan's government on Tuesday proposed legislation that will allow it to classify more information as confidential and ask employees at companies with access to it to undergo security clearance checks.

The bill, however, will likely face resistance from opposition lawmakers, who argue the new rules could impinge on civil liberties.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's administration says the move would bring Japan more in line with western governments and allow it to share more information with businesses at home and its allies overseas.

"I believe a security clearance system will not only strengthen information security in Japan but also increase international business opportunities for Japanese companies," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press briefing. The legislation is expected to be presented to parliament soon.

As Japan steps away from decades of state-sponsored pacifism, it is loosening curbs on military exports so it can seek out defence projects with other countries. In 2022, it agreed to jointly develop a new fighter jet led by BAE Systems Plc BAES.L in Britain, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 7011.T in Japan and Leonardo Spa LDOF.MI in Italy.

Under the proposed changes to information rules, workers at companies who consent to security probes will be interviewed by government officials, checked for past abuse of drugs or alcohol, criminal convictions and given a psychological assessment. Investigators will also examine their finances and quiz family members.

Mihoko Matsubara, chief cybersecurity strategist at Japanese telecoms firm NTT, said the legislation should allow for better information sharing between the government and industry to create a more "holistic understanding" of the threats Japan is facing.

"If you have a bigger umbrella of cyber security clearance, then you can talk about sensitive information in that trusted environment," she said.

Under the proposed legislation, anyone caught sharing confidential government information could face up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as 5 million yen ($33,289).

($1 = 150.2000 yen)

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; additional reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Kim Coghill)

((tim.kelly@thomsonreuters.com; +813-6441-1311;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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