The Diet enacted legislation Friday that makes the creation or distribution of computer viruses a criminal act, but critics say the move could infringe on the privacy of communications guaranteed by the Constitution.
National Diet Building of Japan
The bill to revise the Penal Code cleared the Upper House with an overwhelming majority, setting the stage for the government to join the Convention on Cybercrime, a treaty that stipulates international cooperation in investigating Web-based criminal activity.
Japanese investigative authorities have previously had trouble pursuing cyberattacks on government offices, corporations and individuals in the absence of a domestic law that punishes the creation of viruses and other tampering with computer networks.
The legislation makes the creation or distribution of a computer virus punishable by up to three years in prison or ¥500,000 in fines, and the acquisition or storage of a virus punishable by up to two years in prison or ¥300,000 in fines.
It also makes it an offense to send emails containing pornographic images to random groups of people.
The law controversially allows data to be seized or copied from computer servers that are connected via online networks to a computer seized for investigation. It also enables authorities to request Internet service providers to retain communications logs, such as the names of email senders and recipients, for up to 60 days.
The convention was adopted by the Council of Europe in November 2001 and took effect in 2004. It makes it a criminal offense to have unauthorized access to computer systems, store images of child pornography and infringe on copyrights, among other provisions.