There has been many incidents on local and national news that I have been seeing lately.
It is mostly people loosing USB drives with personal information on thousands of people, and then the heads of the company publicly apologizing, etc...
Privacy is taken extremely seriously here for whatever reasons and is probably the strictest in the world. Perhaps a little overkill even... Most of these incidents just leak information such as the address and phone number of a person. No passwords, SSN's(which doesn't exist here anyways), CC#'s, etc... Although it is just an address and phone number it is still considered a privacy breach and many people get very angry. These incidents of a company's loosing information with only addresses, etc... get as much press or more than the amount of press that company's in the U.S. get for loosing thousands-millions of credit card information...
When the heads of the company apologize, they usually say "no worries, we have not heard of any cases where this leaked information has been abused". My question is how exactly is this information going to be abused? You can't apply for a credit card with only this information. If a bad guy could do something nefarious which only a mailing address and name is needed, all they would need to do is snatch someone's mail from their mailbox before they get it. That is incredible easy to do! That would give them all they needed that nefarious act and with almost no effort.
As an American, I don't know what all the fuss is about since I grew up with such privacy killing services like the phonebook. Nowadays, you can go to whitepages.com and find out not only the mailing address and phone number by only knowing someone's name but you can also find out the names of other people in the household and even their approximate age!! Such a service in Japan would be completely illegal and there would be many arrests and public outrage if someone tried to do that here.
Although I have heard residential phonebooks do exist here and have even seen a place online to buy one for certain regions, I have never actually seen a Japanese phonebook despite my searches nor has any native Japanese told me they have ever seen a Japanese phonebook in their life whenever I ask them.
I find this somewhat inconvenient as I wanted to look up a friend who I had lost contact with but only knew her name and where she lived but couldn't... I guess that's the price you pay for better privacy.
As for social networking sites, they also have much better privacy here. On facebook, myspace, orkut, etc... about 90% of the time (from my experience) people will put their real photo of themselves and real names on their profile page and share embarrassing personal photos of themselves and friends for the whole world to see. On mixi, the biggest SNS in Japan, almost 100% of people do not put their real photo on their profile page and only half or so use their real names. Also, almost everyone restricts pictures so only their friends can see and if there is anything really embarrassing they will usually put a password on it so only a few select people can access it.
I can't say which is better. In Japan many people do not feel they can post things freely so it is kind of a shame. However, in the U.S. and probably other parts of the world there has been many problems arising from privacy issues of these SNS sites.
Such as people getting fired from their job for posting bad things about their work, people not being hired for having a SNS profile which contains pictures of them dead drunk or partaking in illegal substances, and even incidents where companies got hacked by social engineering through SNS sites.
I have not once heard of anything like this happening yet through mixi.
There is also recent talk of privacy concerns through Hatena Bookmarks, a Japanese version of Delicious. There is a claim that because when you save a bookmark it saves and shows the timestamp, that cyber stalkers are able to watch your every move and analyze your behavior by knowing what you are looking at at what time. (However the person claiming that there are actually cyber stalkers out there doing this wasn't able to give proof of this happening in real life, I suppose theoretically people could be doing so....)
When Goolge Earth launched streetview in Japan a year or two ago there was massive outcry of privacy concerns, however, that seemed to die down and I think alot of people now think it is a cool and useful service, albiet somewhat scary. However, last month a Japanese company that was providing the same kind of service stopped shop for undisclosed reasons. I would guess it was financial or something along those lines but many people are guessing that it is due to privacy concerns.
So in conclusion, there are many privacy related issues going on in Japan almost every day and will probably only get worse in the future. Personally, I think they go a little too crazy with privacy requirements but I suppose it is better than the U.S. which has relatively terrible privacy requirements/awareness.