You are browsing the archive for Tomoaki Watanabe.

The rise of MyData in Japan and discussions around personal data use

- August 14, 2019 in japan, mydata, OK Japan, personal-data

On May 15, 2019, MyData Japan conference was held in Tokyo, co-organized by Open Knowledge Japan and MyData Japan. Open Knowledge Japan has been organizing MyData Japan conferences for the past 3 times (2017, 2018, and 2019), and the movement has been growing steadily. Interests from the corporate sector has been the strongest, with 22 companies providing support for the conference. Another sign of the growth is the fact that this year, the conference is co-organized for the first time with MyData Japan, a newly incorporated entity dedicated to the advancement of MyData agendas in Japan. Open Knowledge Japan’s activities and network has led to a number of projects and organizations, including Open Spending Japan and Code 4 Japan. MyData Japan is probably the latest of such spin-offs, involving some of the active OK Japan members. 

© 2019 &, from:, license: CC-BY 4.0.

Like the previous two times, it featured a wide variety of speakers from civic, academic, and corporate sectors, including some guests from abroad. The topics discussed included personal data protection, democracy and data, ID and authentication, system architecture for the data reuse, AI and ethics of data use, overseas policy developments, data portability, and many others. If I pick one, an open source software for personal data store (PDS), Personium, presented by its project lead Mr. Shimono. He envisioned the loose federation of PDS’ connecting individual users of the software. In general, different speakers had different views on the degree to which data should be centrally hosted and/or managed by a trusted agent or fiduciary.  Behind the growth of the movement in Japan is the increasing awareness of the importance of data reuse and data protection. The Japanese government has been exploring ways to promote data reuse, based on its 2016 version of “Japan Revitalization Strategy,” a comprehensive economic growth strategy package. Japanese government has funded some pilot projects, and developed a guideline for certification of such entity. The issue was put forth for a part of the G20 meetings with the concept of Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT). More specifically, the mechanism for better flow of data is conceived as information bank lately. The idea is somewhat close to that of data trust discussed in the UK and other countries. Individuals can decide to deposit information to a trusted entity, an information bank, which in turn will provide the data to a third party and return a portion of economic gains back to the individuals. An industry association picked up the task of certification of information banks. The extent it will succeed is yet to be seen, but Japan has at least seen the expectation leading to a formation of an institution. The MyData conference has discussed the concept of information bank in the past, and this conference happened right around the time the information bank becomes a reality.  Lately Japanese news media and social media discussed some services making potentially inappropriate use of personal data. One is Yahoo! Japan’s credit score service, providing credit scores of their users to various businesses, based on users’ transaction records (such as missed payments and cancellation rate of restaurant reservations) and other personal data. Questions raised on that service by various experts and concerned citizens included whether proper consent was obtained prior to the service, and if Yahoo! Japan users (data subjects) deserved to know what their score was. The company quickly responded by adding explanations to its website addressing users. Another interesting case is the rating of job seekers by Recruit Career, whose platform Rikunabi is one of the largest in Japan. The rating was specifically about the estimated chance of job applicants to decline the non-final job offer from a specific company. The platform presumably had data on the applicant’s browsing history, contacting with other companies, and possibly other data. The Recruit Career admitted that they used personal data of nearly 8,000 users inappropriately, and scrapped the service. Some government investigation has started into the matter. While Open Knowledge Japan has not issued any official comments on any of these, it’s chair commented critically on various aspects, emphasizing corporate responsibility to gain proper understanding from the individuals. 

(photo by Mitya Ivanov from Unsplash)

Overall, OK Japan and its members have been actively involved in the discussions on the policies and practices of personal data use, on how to properly communicate with individuals, how best to handle data, and so on, which are still very much actively ongoing issues. 

How to deal with IP rights of growing projects and products at hackathons – experience from the Japanese context

- February 28, 2019 in hackathon, IP, japan, OK Japan, Open Data Day, tools

Ahead of Open Data Day on Saturday 2nd March 2019, Tomoaki Watanabe from our Japanese chapter Open Knowledge Japan shares more information on a tool they developed to facilitate dealing with intellectual property (IP) rights during hackathon events. This year, many Open Data Day events are planned in Japan: Open Knowledge Japan created an overview at The main idea is simple: a tool to facilitate consensus formation on the intellectual property (IP) rights in the materials generated out of a hackathon. That is so that interested participants, or even others, know that they can develop a promising project further after the event is over. You would see many gems generated at a hackathon: interesting projects, promising products and services, inspiring ideas, sketches, mockups and so on. The excitement and the passion it produces may fade away over time. And sometimes, you may be disappointed by the fact that a seemingly promising project does not get anywhere, even when there are some people who want to develop it further. It is just that the one who wants to carry on cannot figure out if doing so is okay. Another problem related to the rights and licenses issue happens when a for profit company hosts a hackathon and claims all the IP rights – this may make some participants feel surprised and exploited. In Japan, a research project related to digital fabrication <> saw this problem and came up with a rather simple set of templates, called “a participation agreement,” <> to facilitate and document participants’ consensus on the rights issues around hackathons or makeathons. (Disclosure: I am currently a member of the research project, although I am not one of the members who developed it.) It has been developed with the help of a lawyer to ensure proper legal force. The main developer helped introduce them to well over a dozen hackathons and similar events, and a small study found that all private and public sector organizers knew about the tool (Kobayashi & Mizuno, 2016). The tool is published under an open license (CC-BY-SA 4.0), and meant to be customized by the organizer(s) of the event adopting the tool.

Legal hack group brainstorms solutions to stakeholder challenge by MC Legal Hackathon and Franklin Graves, CC0

How to Use and Major Features

The tool is a set of documents. The Participation Consent Form is like a terms of service for the event, so that the participants know, prior to the event, what happens to his rights. The Post-Event Confirmation Form is to be agreed after the event. The “default settings” of the documents are such that participants’ intellectual property rights stay with participants. The exception is when a participant becomes unreachable, in which case his rights are deemed waived. It means that, at least, participants can explore what to do with the unfinished project and negotiate over the terms. Additionally, it has a clause stating that contributing ideas alone would not result in any ground for an IP right. These settings are in the pre-participation document, and the post-participation document is for writing down an agreement among the contributing group members over their rights, permissions, terms, etc. so that they know what they can do with the output of their team. One important “default setting” there is the statement that those who do not participate into commercialization after the event will waive all their IP rights. Some organizers may think that some revenue sharing scheme or acknowledgement of contribution (attribution / crediting) should be adopted as a default. In order to customize the documents, a good starting point would be to change the very first part – from title, organizer’s name, and to Art. 1, which is about the purpose of the event. Another section to customize may be the Art. 2, where the IP rights are discussed. If a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY) should be adopted as a baseline for copyrights in participants’ contributions, for example, this would be a good place to state that. Art. 2 of the post-event document has the “default setting” mentioned above on non-participating members of post-event commercialization waiving the IP rights. One additional thing to note is that because the tool was originally developed for Japanese context, they contain references to the Japanese copyright law. There is a repository at GitHub so that people can report suggestions, bugs or questions. Forking the tool is also welcome, according to a Japanese material by the developers. To recap, these documents (templates) are good for avoiding the avoidable rights-clearance issues arising out of collaborative events like a hackathon.   Reference: Kobayashi & Mizuno (2016). “Making rules regarding intellectual property rights at co-creation events such as hack-a-thons: proposal of a participation agreement.” Digital Practice, v.7, n.2, pp.128-135. (in Japanese)