New phones let Japan's government secretly track its citizens

Five new handsets from NTT DoCoMo will let authorities find you without consent or notice.

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

The Japan Times is reporting that local mobile network NTT DoCoMo is embracing government surveillance. The company launched five new smartphones on Tuesday that lets the authorities to track a user's location without their knowledge or consent. Existing handsets, however, currently alert a user when their position is being accessed by a third party. The move is in reaction to a change in the law back in June 2015 that withdrew the requirement to gain a subscriber's permission before sharing their GPS data.

The first five devices that come with the new feature include the Galaxy S7 Edge, Xperia X Performance and Aquos Zeta. Current DoCoMo handsets will also get a similar upgrade through a firmware update, although the precise timing is not yet known. NTT, for its part, has already said that it's previously handed GPS data over to authorities in times of crisis. It's quoted by the Times saying that it "provided positional information" to the emergency services such as the ambulance and coastguard. The report explains that authorities will only be able to access this information if they are given permission by a court. But lawyer Tsutomu Shimizu is quoted by the paper, saying that the move is an "extreme invasion of privacy."