Japanese officials in tables-turned GPS tracking rumpus

Pork payola probe plans protested


Normally, one expects any story about military-industrial-complex bureaucrats and hi-tech surveillance to involve the officials spying on someone else. Not today in Japan, though, as a plan seems to be afoot for defence ministry people to be tracked using GPS-enabled cellphones.

Many parents are at least considering the use of GPS phones or some other kind of tracking tech on their children, so as perhaps to know if they were kidnapped. At first sight, this might make sense for high-ranking generals or officials in possession of military secrets.

By tracking them, you'd know if they had been abducted for interrogation by agents of a foreign power, or defected perhaps. Or you might want - as with kids - to know if the naughty generals had gone somewhere forbidden (for instance, the bedroom of a notoriously attractive foreign spy. Possibly OK for older teenagers, but probably not for key generals).

However, in Japan these don't seem to be the issues at stake. In this case, it's more a question of finding out whether defence officials have been hobnobbing overmuch with pork-hungry contractors.

It seems the former number-two official at the Tokyo defence ministry has recently admitted to running up a huge tab at Japan's notoriously expensive golf courses, compliments of a major arms contractor.

In the wake of this scandal, Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba reportedly proposed the idea of tracking his people's whereabouts with satnav-enabled phones. This seems to have provoked a good deal of anger among the bureaucrats.

"We're not children," an unnamed official said, according to Reuters.

"They are ignoring our privacy," added another.®

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