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Politics

Japan moves to grant consumer rights over personal data

Individuals would be able to bar companies from using identifying information

A Facebook data center. The abuse of data collected by companies has fueled a push for greater privacy protections.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan is considering giving individuals the right to stop companies from using their personal data, Nikkei learned Tuesday, as companies increasingly mine this virtual resource to build new businesses.

The idea will be a point of debate in discussions about revisions to the country's data protection law, which is scheduled for review in 2020.

Under the current law, individuals can stop companies from using their personal information only if it is improperly obtained or used for something other than its original purpose. The Personal Information Protection Commission would expand that right to allow people to designate how their information can be used.

Customers could limit the use of their personal data to receiving direct mail, for example, or retract information that they previously agreed to give.

Confirming consumer intent would become more important when companies employ artificial intelligence to analyze data for credit services or purchase histories as part of forecasting demand trends. But the impact on targeted advertising, which predicts shoppers' tastes from traits like demographics, would not be great because the technique mainly relies on browser cookies, smartphone location and other information not considered personal under the current law.

Efforts to prevent the abuse of personal data are growing. Facebook was found to have improperly handled customer information last year by collecting and sharing data with other companies without sufficient explanation to users. As companies accelerate their use of data, rules that prevent them from distributing or using that information in non-agreed-upon ways will become key.

The European Union put its strict General Data Protection Regulation into force last year and certified that Japan's rules met the bloc's standards. Japan is pushing for a free data zone with the EU as it aims to strengthen both the use of information and protections.

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