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Technology

Japan's new data bank lets users swap travel plans for gift cards

Ad agency Dentsu recruits 12,000 users and 10 companies for six-month trial

Points from sharing data can be put toward purchases on Line Pay. (Photo courtesy of Line)

TOKYO -- Japanese advertising agency Dentsu announced Wednesday the launch of an experimental "information bank" that gives consumers control over how their data is used while rewarding them for sharing it.

Dentsu unit My Data Intelligence has rolled out a smartphone app that lets users respond to information requests from companies, such as disclosing their travel plans or uploading photos of their meals for three days. In return, they receive points that can be redeemed for Amazon Japan gift cards or used on services such as Line Pay or e-commerce site Rakuten.

Information banks offer an alternative model to technology giants such as Google and Facebook that collect vast quantities of personal data while offering only convenience in exchange. Scandals including leaks from Facebook have made clear how difficult it is to tell where this information ends up, driving international calls for tougher regulation to put more power in consumers' hands.

Users of the Dentsu service can choose whether or not to respond to a given request after checking how the information will be used and the compensation on offer. They can also revoke permission to use their data even after it is submitted. This trial of the service, with about 12,000 users, will run until Dec. 31.

Ten companies are participating in planning the trial, including three Dentsu group members along with brewer Kirin Holdings, staffing agency Persol Career, Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance and eyewear retailer Visionary Holdings.

The plan is to use the data collected to develop new products, including through partnerships. For example, a travel company could request information together with a staffing agency to create new travel packages for job-switching or business trips.

The participating businesses will set up a joint research group to examine how the data is used.

The Information Technology Federation of Japan has taken the lead in developing rules for information brokerages. The industry group gave its stamp of approval last month to Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank and Aeon group company FeliCa Pocket Marketing, and My Data Intelligence has put in an application.

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