Japan to start mass surveillance of internet cafes, chat rooms

Japan has ordered the mass surveillance and monitoring of all online social networks, including those in English and Japanese, to try to detect potential threats.

In a decree issued on Tuesday, the cabinet decided to institute a system whereby people can be monitored without their knowledge or consent, and those who violate the law can be penalised.

The move comes as part of an effort to beef up security measures in Japan after a spate of cyberattacks in the country last year, which affected around 150 companies and affected around 70,000 people.

Japan’s government has previously deployed surveillance technologies including facial recognition, and has said it is investigating a range of cyber threats, including one that threatened to take down the nation’s government.

It also announced plans to introduce more internet cafes and online chat rooms in the wake of the recent cyberattacks.

But there are fears that the measures could backfire, with some Japanese people and internet cafes arguing that the legislation is too broad and could violate their privacy.

A group of cyber security experts, including former Google executive Regina Dugan, said last year that Japan should be more concerned with ensuring that people do not use the internet to commit criminal activity, rather than worrying about how much data is collected on them.

“In the absence of specific legal and administrative restrictions, the potential harm from such surveillance can be large,” she said.

Some of the internet cafes in Japan have already announced they will shutter or suspend service in response to the measure.

One of the biggest online cafes in Tokyo is known as Tokai, and according to the Japanese newspaper Nikkei, its customers are also being tracked and warned about the government’s plans to spy on them, and if they try to access the internet, they will be banned from accessing the site.

Tokai said it was taking the move “as a precautionary measure”.

In Japan, a cyber threat is defined as a “serious cyberattack that results in significant financial damage”.