Photo/IllutrationLogos of Google, top, and Amazon. A proposed revision to the Personal Information Protection Law would make it easier for individuals in Japan to make the firms stop using their personal data. (Provided by Google and Amazon)

People in Japan will gain more rights to prevent IT giants harvesting big data from abusing their personal information under a proposed revision to a privacy law.

The Personal Information Protection Commission decided to order the firms, including the so-called GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple), to comply when someone asks them to stop using their personal data such as their purchasing history.

In an outline of the proposal for the revision of the Personal Information Protection Law, publicly disclosed by the commission on April 25, a new clause stipulating “suspension of use rights” was included.

The commission aims to introduce a bill to the ordinary Diet session to revise the law next year, amid growing concern over the abuse of a staggering amount of personal information, seen as a source of growth for GAFA and others.

In 2018, U.S.-based firm Facebook’s practice of exploiting personal data was exposed, raising widespread concerns over how companies are using users' information.

Between April and December 2018, the commission’s phone consultation service handled 435 cases where users inquired about deleting online personal information or suspending its use.

The law, which was enforced against all companies in 2017, currently grants an individual the right to demand a company to suspend the use of personal data only in cases in which the company improperly obtains personal information such as name and address or uses the information for improper purposes.

As revision of the law is required every three years, the commission included a clause in the outline of the proposal that stated, “Regarding suspension of personal data use, how to expand the limits of individual rights will be discussed.”

Under the revised law, companies will be obliged to suspend the use of personal data if an individual demands it, giving consumers more power to protect their privacy, including their online purchasing behavior.

The law is applicable to companies headquartered overseas such as GAFA, as long as the company uses personal data in Japan.

But how forcefully and effectively the commission will be able to conduct investigations and issue orders to firms remains to be seen.

The commission has acknowledged these challenges and said it is necessary to continue discussing the issues.