Japan's infidelities: Cheaters traced through electronic travel cards

Japanese travel cards like Pasmo are being used by investigators to track unfaithful partners. As a result, the company has shut down its travel history services.

Since arriving in Japan I've been repeatedly urged to get a Suica or a Pasmo -- an  electronic travel card that allows you to hop through stations quickly with prepaid credit. These passes are designed for convenience and a heavy commuter lifestyle. Not having one puts you at a disadvantage in many ways.

It does mean that you are able to pull off extra marital affairs, though.

A recent news report revealed that many who are stepping out on their other half are being discovered by tracing their Pasmos.

Until recently the card logged three months of travel and purchase information for customers to check.

However Pasmo had to shut down this service. They discovered that investigators were using the information on these cards to expose affairs.

The cards were easy to trace. All the information needed was the customer's name, birth date and phone number -- details that could be readily available to a spouse, or even posted on Facebook or Twitter.

The only detail that might be a little harder to find would be the card number.

However, anyone with enough reason to suspect their partner is cheating would probably be able to justify snooping around to find the number.

Unfortunately Pasmo can not stop people spying on their other halves. It is still possible for them to take the card to any station and print out its travel history at a ticket machine. If a customer wants to check their travel history or prove the card has been stolen, it is necessary to have this function in some form.

At this point it is not clear if this same problem exists with other brands of travel cards.

A similar issue occurred in the U.K., with the Oyster travel card, as early as 2006. Only 3 years after it was released there were already concerns about its use as a tracking tool. Police were using it to track down criminals, and spouses were using it to track down cheaters.

At the moment it is still possible to check travel history with the Oyster card. However, this is the first time it has been an issue in Japan. The Pasmo was originally released in 2007, and it has taken 5 years for concerns to be raised about tracing.

However, the invasion of privacy might not end there. What is to stop companies demanding a print out of travel history to prove, for example, that an employee who called in sick actually traveled to the doctor?

With the current debate over employers requesting Facebook logins, it is surprising that similar issues have not occurred with travel cards like these. Japan is a very trusting nation, so it's possible that most employees simply do not lie. This might be why this issue took so long to build.

As for those who want to continue their affair undiscovered, the solution seems to be relatively simple. Not to advocate infidelity, but it seems that downgrading your tech might be the way forward. Instead of flashing your Pasmo or Suica, just buy a ticket!

Then, it is as simple as throwing it away, and the evidence is gone.

Image source: Fredrik Olson/Flickr.com.