Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Government, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Associate Professor, Political Science/Law Enforcement, Minnesota State University, Mankato
The Politics of Privacy in Japan, Australia, and South Korea: Complex Policy Convergence in the Asia Pacific

The proposed research analyzes the politics of privacy in three advanced industrial democracies in the Asia Pacific: Japan, Australia, and South Korea. Similar to democratic countries in Western Europe and the United States, the use of digital technology progressed rapidly in these countries in the last four decades. While promoting economic development, the widespread use of digital technology has made it difficult for citizens to protect their privacy because digital technology makes personal information quickly available worldwide. To mitigate this problem, governments in Western Europe and the U.S. have been making policy for privacy protection since the early 1970s. The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development set up guidelines on privacy protection in the early 1980s. In the mid-1990s, the European Union (EU) formulated strict privacy rules applicable to EU member countries and started to press other national governments to institute policy for privacy protection. The three countries in the Asia Pacific were late in developing privacy protection policies but their governments have been setting up measures for privacy protection since the late 1980s. Although policy converged to more privacy protection, the three countries revealed different policy trajectories. The research comparatively analyzes the process of the development of privacy protection and its convergence in the three countries, examining political interactions among policy actors—politicians, bureaucrats, members of interest groups and non-government organizations, and academics—in the policymaking process while examining historical background. In addition to the impact of interests and ideas developed in the domestic political context, my analysis examines four different aspects, i.e., international policy diffusion, policymaking for economic development, government reform, and global civil liberty movement. These four aspects of policymaking form four distinctive streams of policy discussion, namely the policy diffusion, developmental policy, government reform, and citizen activism streams. The research identifies primary actors and major ideas in each stream, tracing the development of policy ideas. When these streams interacted in the policymaking process, the research evaluates how ideas were incorporated into or excluded from policy outcomes. By highlighting the impact of global factors on each of the four streams, the research shows that domestic factors alone do not explain policy trajectory in the politics of privacy. It also points out the inaccuracy of simplistic explanations of global convergence that tend to look to conformity where policy is applied in the same way. Instead, the research seeks to show complex convergence where different streams of global forces and ideas interact in the domestic political domain, generating similar but distinctive policy outcomes. The research uses a qualitative institutionalist approach. It involves field research in the three countries as well as preparatory work in the U.S. In field research, I will conduct archival research and interviews with policymakers and other policy actors who are knowledgeable about the research topic. To contribute to the discussion in comparative politics and international political economy and to better inform concerned citizens about the importance of privacy, I will present the final product of this research as a scholarly book.