UK-Japan trade agreement endangers privacy

UK-Japan Trade Agreement punches USA-sized hole in privacy and endangers trade agreement with the EU 

Today, the Open Rights Group have published a briefing outlining the existential threat posed by the UK-Japan Trade Agreement towards our privacy and data protection rights here in the UK. Furthermore, the briefing sets out why this agreement would endanger data ‘adequacy’ agreements with the EU. 

The UK-Japan Trade Agreement, which was supposed to be uncontroversial but “better” for digital trade, poses risks of “data laundering” of UK personal data to US firms, via Japan.  The EU-Japan Agreement has specific bans on such transfers.

Clauses in the UK-Japan Agreement allow UK citizens’ data to “flow” to the USA, once the UK recognises Japanese Data Protection as “adequate”. 

Once “laundered”, personal data could be sold, used for profiling and kept in secret, hidden from individuals without rights of access or deletion. 

The EU will need to ensure personal data cannot be laundered in this way in order to conclude an adequacy agreement with the UK. These controversial changes are likely to further hold up and complicate negotiations over EU-UK data transfers.

Jim Killock, the Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, said: 

“It is unacceptable for the UK to shift from the high levels of data protection we currently enjoy to a data free-for-all through obscure clauses and footnotes in a trade agreement. Parliament must demand answers, and ensure the Government “freezes” these clauses from the treaty. 

“It is easy enough to freeze these dangerous provisions and would not affect other sections of the treaty. The ongoing economic relationship between the UK and Japan does not need these rushed provisions with seismic ramifications. It is in Parliament’s hands to make that happen and we encourage MPs from across the House of Commons to ensure they are frozen indefinitely.”



Jim Killock

Notes to the editor

  1. Blog published by the Open Rights Group on the UK-Japan Trade Agreement.  
  2. Policy Briefing: How the UK-Japan Trade deal severs post-Brexit Data adequacy.