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Japan takes step toward enormous bank of personal data

Information would help businesses tailor products, services

The information bank would pave the way for companies to market products and services suited to an individual, rather than a crowd.

TOKYO -- Japan is ramping up efforts to create a data bank that stores a range of personal information ranging from social network profiles to online shopping histories, with plans to launch the framework on a trial basis by the end of the year.

The so-called information bank would store data on customers currently held by companies and public entities. If an individual consents to the data being shared, the bank would provide the information to businesses in exchange for a fee. The platform could be run by a system development company or a telecommunications provider, for example.

The government will consider a certification system for businesses entrusted with running the framework as well as other security concerns. The Information Technology Strategic Headquarters, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will compile its midterm findings at a meeting Friday, and come up with the final proposal in March. The goal is to pass legislation on the framework next year.

Some types of data the bank could hold include social network profiles, fitness data tracked through wearable devices, online shopping histories and GPS locations. Individuals will be able to choose which information they are willing to share, and with whom.

Businesses will be able to gain access to information from other companies and industries, in addition to customer data they collected on their own. This will allow them to create products and services that are better suited to customers' interests.

Plans call for a trial run in several sectors by the end of this year. In tourism, a leading publishing company will store information provided by college students and other tourists in the city of Kyoto. It will analyze the travelers' interests and physical conditions using artificial intelligence, which it will then pass on to travel agencies and others. The agencies could provide tailored recommendations to sightseeing spots, restaurants and insurance plans through a special app.

In the health care field, data on consenting patients will be analyzed to help diagnose lifestyle-related diseases early. The system will also help facilitate advanced farm management, bringing information on land quality and work records to one place, as well as the sharing of agricultural know-how.


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