Business

Japan's info protection panel considers beefing up protections for internet users' data

Kyodo

Japan is moving closer to requiring companies to stop using personal information for such purposes as advertising if requested by consumers, a government plan showed Thursday.

The proposal was part of an interim report issued by the government’s Personal Information Protection Commission, which is discussing revising the private information protection law in 2020.

It would be the first amendment to the law, which entered took into force in May 2017, since a clause saying it must reviewed every three years was added later that year.

The commission plans to solicit public opinion on the plan because Japan is considering strengthening regulations against corporate IT giants like Amazon.com and Google LLC, given consumers are becoming increasingly anxious their personal data is being collected without consent.

“It is necessary to consider ways to expand the scope of personal rights” regarding when to suspend the use of personal information by companies, the interim report states.

The panel is expected to continue talks on whether to include “the right to be forgotten” in the next amendment. That feature allows individuals to have internet firms remove past images or search results related to them. The right has already been introduced in parts of Europe.

Personal data including names, birthdates and addresses are collected by a range of companies through legitimate means and have widely been used for marketing purposes in Japan.

At present, companies respond to consumer requests to remove personal data on a voluntary basis. But if the commission’s proposal is approved, such actions will be mandatory.

Those targeted by the envisioned regulation include not only Japanese firms, but also the global IT giants known as the big four — Google, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Amazon.

The panel is also considering ways to apply the law to companies based overseas.

Firms such as Amazon and Google have thrived by using such data to tailor their services to individuals while fanning concerns about loss of privacy.

Japanese officials have been looking into whether an existing law can be used to penalize the operators of such platforms for mishandling personal data they collect from users.

In October, the commission ordered Facebook to improve its protection of such information.

The European Union has already introduced tough regulations on how to handle personal information to protect people against online technology giants.