Japan's Lower House Passes Bill for Economic Security Information Protection

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Japan's Lower House Passes Bill for Economic Security Information Protection

## Japan's Lower House Passes Bill for Economic Security Information Protection

The Lower House of Japan's parliament has passed a bill that will require private-sector individuals to undergo government background checks for clearance to access economic security information. The bill was approved on April 9 by a majority vote, with support from both the ruling coalition and opposition parties. This multiparty support ensures the legislation will be enacted during the current Diet session.

defense, foreign affairs, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and economic security. This addition of economic security is expected to subject more people in the private sector, such as company employees, to undergo security clearance background checks.

Under the system, information in economic areas that could affect Japan's national security would be designated as critical information that must be protected. Only those who pass the government's background checks would be able to handle such designated information. The screening would cover the individuals' criminal records, drinking habits, debt problems, their family members' nationalities, among other information.

A leak of designated information would be punishable by up to five years in prison or a maximum fine of 5 million yen ($33,000). The government has said Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven that has not introduced such a system. Officials have said the legislation will make it easier for private-sector companies to participate in international joint research and development projects on cutting-edge technologies.

During Diet deliberations, opposition parties questioned the unclear scope of critical information to be protected, the exemption of Cabinet ministers and their deputies from background checks, and other issues. However, they decided to support the bill after revisions were made. The bill now requires the government to annually report to the Diet on the designation of critical economic security information and the implementation status of the security clearance system.

Critics have expressed concerns that corporate activities could be restricted if a wide range of information is designated for protection, and that company employees who refuse background checks could face disadvantages in personnel changes. The Japanese Communist Party and Reiwa Shinsengumi voted against the bill.