On 23 January 2019, the European Commission adopted an adequacy decision on Japan which allows personal data to flow freely between the European Union and Japan without the need for further formalities. Concurrently, Japan has adopted an equivalent decision in relation to the export of personal data from Japan to the EU. European businesses can rely on the EU Japan Adequacy Decision as of 23 January 2019.
Background On 17 July 2018, the European Commission and the Japanese Government agreed to recognise each other's data protection regimes as adequate, potentially allowing personal data to be transferred safely between the EU and Japan.
Starting in September 2018, the countries entered into negotiations in order to reach a mutual adequacy agreement. As part of those negotiations, Japan adopted legislation to guarantee data protection in line with European standards. As a result, both the European Union and Japan now consider each other's data protection system as providing an adequate level of protection of personal data.
Practical consequences The mutual adequacy arrangement benefits both EU and Japanese businesses because it reduces the required workload (no more formalities) for the transfer of personal data between Japan and the EU. Furthermore, the arrangement ensures Japanese businesses comply with a standard of personal data protection in line with European standards. This includes higher standards for the protection of sensitive data and the exercise of data subjects' rights.
The adequacy decision does not apply to personal data transferred to press organisations (including communication companies), professional writers, universities and other organisations aimed at academic studies, religious bodies and political bodies.
For a concise overview of the implications of the EU Japan Adequacy Decision please consult this factsheet provided by the European Commission.