In response to the rapid digitalization of international commerce, the governments of Japan and the UK have agreed to restrict each other from gathering data on individuals and businesses to ensure an environment conducive to free data exchange. The goal will be included in their new bilateral trade accord, for which a broad agreement is expected to be reached soon.
The new restriction would likely apply to browsing and purchase histories on each other’s domestic websites, as well as business transactions between the two countries. Without the restriction, individuals and businesses would be wary of government monitoring, which could hinder free trade.
Information required for criminal investigations and data concerning public health and hygiene, such as data related to infectious diseases, would remain available to the governments. When collecting data, the governments must ensure that it is collected in a fair and reasonable manner.
The existing agreement between Japan and the U.S. concerning digital trade, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, prohibits national governments from requesting businesses to establish servers within their borders or disclose the source code of software. Japan and the UK have taken the restrictions a step further.
Collection of personal and corporate information by governments undermines robust economic activities. Furthermore, sensitive information could be leaked as a result, causing major security problems.
The two negotiating partners agreed to include the restriction partly out of concern that no global rules currently exist to govern data collection by national governments.
As the Chinese government aggressively collects data to strengthen China’s economy, the inclusion of the restriction is considered a step toward establishing new international rules on data collection.
Japan and UK reached a substantive agreement on most of the areas of the trade deal earlier this month and are aiming to effectuate it on Jan. 1, 2021. (Slightly Abridged)