[Update to previous post from August 17, 2018]

On January 23, 2019, the European Commission and Japan mutually recognized each other’s data protection laws as providing an adequate level of protection of personal data (see European Commission press release here). As a result, nearly all personal data can now flow freely between the EU and Japan. The European Commission’s decision does not apply to transfers of data to media operators, academic institutions, religious organizations and political bodies to the extent the data is processed for press, academic, religious or political purposes, respectively.

The decision follows the additional safeguards Japan put in place in the last months to meet the EU data protection standard. Such safeguards include:

  • “Supplementary Rules” (in relation to the Japanese Act on the Protection of Personal Information) applicable to Japanese entities receiving personal data from the EU, which, amongst others, offer special guarantees in relation to onward transfers – available here and summarized by the European Commission here;
  • a complaint-handling mechanism, under the supervision of the Japanese data protection authority (the Personal Information Protection Commission), to investigate and resolve complaints from Europeans regarding access to their data by Japanese public authorities; and
  • assurances received from the Japanese Government that safeguards concerning the access of Japanese public authorities to personal data originating from the EU would be limited to what is necessary and proportionate for criminal law enforcement and national security purposes and subject to an independent oversight and effective redress mechanism.

The timing of the decision was no coincidence taking into account that the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement will enter into force in February 2019 (more information here).