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Business trends

Japan's 'information banks' to let users cash in on personal data

Monetary and other rewards await consumers who allow sharing

People use smartphones outside an Apple Store in Tokyo. Information banks will not only give Japanese consumers greater control over their data, but also compensate them for it.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- As dissatisfaction grows with how technology giants use personal data, Japanese businesses are offering a solution in the form of "information banks" that compensate customers for providing it.

Satellite broadcaster Sky Perfect JSAT Holdings and personal loan provider J.Score are among the companies setting up these banks, which also give users greater control over data distribution.

Starting July, Sky Perfect customers will enjoy subscription discounts for allowing their viewing histories and interests to be shared with outside companies. They can save several hundred yen a pop, or several dollars. The data in turn would allow a sportswear store to buy advertising slots only targeting frequent sports viewers, for example.

The company will initially roll out the discounts for 2,500 customers and aims to introduce them for all 3.25 million subscribers in fiscal 2020.

J.Score, which counts Mizuho Bank as an investor, uses artificial intelligence to sort loan applicants into one of six tiers based on their personal information. Customers can receive cash, electronic money or lower interest rates if they agree to provide their scores to outside companies. J.Score hopes to launch the new rewards to its 600,000 users by the end of this fiscal year.

Culture Convenience Club, the company behind Tsutaya video rental shops and bookstores, is using its T Point service to reward customers who let it share information.

Fujitsu and Dentsu will start testing an information bank in August. Fujitsu will pull information from Google Calendar with the consent of users, who will receive TV and event recommendations based on their interests for their free time.

Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Aeon group member FeliCa Pocket Marketing and data management service DataSign are among the first companies expected to receive government approval as early as June to set up information banks.

Dai Nippon Printing, which is developing an information bank system with Fujitsu, is also moving to obtain approval.

"We want to compete against GAFA [Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.com] by using data in a way that fits with Japanese users," said Ryuichiro Omori, president and CEO of J.Score.

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