Talking about data with Ren Ito, Vice President, Global Strategy, Mercari, Senior Fellow, New York University (NYU) School of Law

Published on
May 10, 2021

The Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network has released a Report “We Need to Talk About Data: Framing the Debate Around the Free Flow of Data and Data Sovereignty”. The Report presents concerns and perspectives around these polarizing policy concepts, offering recommendations on how to move forward.  To unpack the key messages and explore the next steps, I&JPN spoke with the Report’s contributors to ask how I&JPN can foster a collaborative discussion on organising our common Datasphere.


Why do we need to talk about data?

Whilst the economic benefits of data free flow are clear, it is also key to unlocking a vast array of societal benefits, like incorporating more participants from around the world within the global economy, as well as collectively tackling issues like climate change, aging populations and public health challenges. As we look to reap both the economic and societal benefits, it is critical that we find a middle ground in boosting existing data flows whilst respecting user privacy and security.

Ultimately, more discussion is needed as to how this can be achieved. I am of the belief that technical solutions will be key to generating a step-change in safe data flows as we look to build trust and move towards a better, more technologically sophisticated society.

What is the most important key message from the I&JPN Report?

The I&JPN report highlights that it is critical free flows are supported, given their critical contribution to productivity, innovation, and sustainable development; however, this does not entail an environment without suitable rules or regulation.

Trust is incredibly important here and is ultimately the key to ensuring free(er) flows of data.

When considering data policy approaches, why should we be thinking about our “common Datasphere”?

Data is all-encompassing. As an operator of a marketplace whose operations span across different countries and continents, international flow and storage of vast quantities of data is the very lifeblood of our business. This has been accentuated in recent times, particularly following the outbreak of COVID-19.

How can we foster a collaborative discussion moving forward?

Implementing technical solutions alongside strong governmental cooperation will be the key to formulating a coherent, effective set of rules that free up data flows whilst ensuring that customers’ data privacy is treated with the utmost respect and security.

In essence, this will entail developing sophisticated data transfer mechanisms to improve levels of trust and accountability. Example solutions include data encryption with keys stored in countries with stringent data privacy laws, pseudo anonymization, and ensuring that data is traceable to alleviate potential data privacy concerns.