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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death

While today's blog is an obvious nod to one of my favorite punk group the Dead Kennedys, it's also a nod towards something Japan's federal government is instigating in the hopes of making travel within Japan easier—but I suspect more devious uses for it.

Coming soon this summer to a convenience store, hotel, restaurant and other places near you, Japan is instigating a fingerprint system that will allow visiting tourists to the country to more easily make purchases while at the same time avoid all of that nasty crime Japan is famous for.

Yeah - it's that last phrase that should be troubling. The fingerprint system for gaijin is to better prevent crime, and to reduce the amount of cash tourists need carry about with them.

Japan doesn't have a crime problem - except from whatever the hell the Japanese Gentleman's Business Club members - the yakuza - are up to, which as far as I know isn't anything. I swear! I don't know nothing.

Granted this fingerprinting system is being put in place in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games... because while the average Japanese person is pretty damn honest - as much as you are, I say hopefully, it can be assumed these measures are because crime travels... with expected pickpockets. muggers, armed robbery and petty theft offenses increase as the games get closer.

The plan for the system is that foreign tourists when they arrive in Japan via airports or the docks to register their fingerprints and data such as their credit card information - linking, for example, those two items so that only the appropriate fingerprint can access and utilize the credit card.

I admit it sounds like a great idea.

Who the hell needs to carry around $10,000 in Japanese money in their wallet. It sounds stupid, but I have done that on a few occasions while in Japan. That was 1990-1993.

Here in Toronto, Canada where I live, we use our ATM (automated teller machine) bank card as a debit card to make purchases, where we can stick the card into a reader and type in the password or literally tap it against the reader, and presto, purchase accepted or declined (if you lack the funds in your bank).

Personally, I dislike the tap method, because if the card is lost, anyone finding it can use it until such time as you realize the card is missing and cancel it.

I don't use the tap method... I prefer to input my password. No password is perfect, but it's a helluva lot better protection than the "tap".

Seriously.... don't get the "tap".

So... in Japan... do they have the debit card option for payments? Seriously - except for some very small businesses in Toronto (my hairdresser like cash), every damn place has a debit card payment option for goods and services rendered. I would assume Japan has this capability, minus the "tap".

How about credit cards having a hologram image of the user's face, along with personal information such as the card owner's address? Seriously... what's IN those holograms right now? Are you telling me that the holograms used are just for beauty? At that extra cost? If not required by a bank, no bank would absorb the extra cost to make a card prettier with a hologram. I don't feel like looking up that stuff and falling further down the rabbit hole... someone let me know...

The fingerprint deal would allow foreign tourists to verify that they are foreign (assume the fingerprint data is also keyed in with passport data), and it would thus ensure that the consumer could make tax exempt purchases, as is their right.

The plan would also allow gaijin to use the fingerprint scan as proof of identity when they check into a hotel... the Japan Inns and Hotels Law requires foreign tourists to show their passports when they check into ryokan (old school Japanese) inns or hotels.

Initially, this pilot test program will be offered at just 300 souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels and other places in the tourist trap areas of Hakone-shi, Kamakura-shi, Yugawara-shi in Kanagawa-ken (Kanagawa Prefecture), and Atami-shi in Shizuoka-ken (Shizuoka Prefecture).

By next year at this time, the government will give the finger to gaijin in more areas such as the Tohoku region and Nagoya, with the system going country-wide by 2020 in time for the Olympics - where Japan hopes to see some 40-million gaijin tourists.

So... concerned about Big Brother watching you? Concerned that that big giant red circle in the Japanese flag is really a bleary-eyed government official monitoring your every move?

Well... it is... sort of. No, the government isn't monitoring the fingerprint data, but really... c'mon... anyhow, they say an independent company is doing that.

They also say that said independent company is also compiling data on your spending habits so that they can better-create tourist strategies for the industry at some later point.

The finger system for gaijin is not the first use of the technology in Japan. Back in October of 2015, the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki-ken (Nagasaki Prefecture), had a test program allowing customers to use fingerprint payments at 30 participating stores and restaurants within the theme park... which makes me believe there are too many shops in that theme park.

Later this April, Tokyo-based Aeon Bank will become the first bank in Japan to test a fingerprint system that allows customers to withdraw cash from ATMs, meaning no debit/cash card required.

The bank says that this system is a better method at curtailing fraud, but again... how are passwords being circumnavigated on the debit cards?

Man... if I was a bad ass muthafugga, I would be chopping off people's fingers... or sparing the bloody mess, how difficult could it be for baddies in the food & beverage industry to accumulate gaijin fingerprints from drinking glasses, create a copy and press onto one's own finger to use in the fingerprint verification system to make purchases the real owner has no clue are being made?

I have no data to back this up, but I doubt that it is all that difficult to steal fingerprints. Anyhow... maybe my circumnavigation of the fingerprint system is totally Mission Impossible, but I don't think it is. Where there's a will, there's a way.

As a slight sidebar, meet the Japanese woman who makes fake fingers for the yakuza - sent to me by Vinnie a few hours after I wrote this blog:

Andrew Joseph

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