Address constitutional issues to realize digital society

A security officer keeps watch in front of an AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign at the annual Huawei Connect event in Shanghai, China September 18, 2019.

In this seventh and final installment of a series on issues in the House of Representatives election, The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed Prof. Tatsuhiko Yamamoto of Keio University. The following is excerpted from his remarks in the interview.

With the advancement of artificial intelligence and the rise of social media giants like Twitter and Facebook, many constitutional issues have emerged that need to be discussed.

Platform operators collect vast amounts of information on internet behavior and use AI to create profiles of their users.

Targeted advertising is not the only purpose of the technology, which is also used for such things as corporate recruitment and credit checks, and can have a significant impact on people’s lives.

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, voting behavior was allegedly manipulated by flooding voters characterized as influenceable with false information.

The European Union wants to apply constitutional principles to tech platforms, which it deems to be entities with the power to exercise authority.

Data protection is a fundamental right set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has introduced rules on profiling.

On the other hand, Japan’s personal information protection legislation, which is not clear about what rights it is trying to protect and for what purpose, seems to be lagging behind the times.

In a digital society, it is important for people to have the right to decide the extent to which their information is shared with others. However, such thinking is lacking in Japan’s push for digitization, and sufficient levels of trust have not been established.

True digitization will not be achieved without a head-on discussion on the basic rights necessary for people to live independently in a digital society. I hope there will be discussions on whether the right to information self-determination needs to be written into the Constitution as a compass to guide legislation and the judiciary.

The rules set by platform operators affect businesses and ways of communicating more than the law. How to control their power to set the rules is a constitutional issue.

The U.S. government no longer thinks of them as simply private companies, but excessive regulation would not be a good idea. The freedom of platform operators must be taken into consideration.

It is important to draw a new picture of the separation of powers that incorporates platforms.

The Liberal Democratic Party has proposed revisions to the Constitution in four specific areas, including the addition of clear legal grounds for the existence of the Self-Defense Forces. However, political parties are still stuck in ideological arguments of protecting or revising the Constitution.

It is important to have practical debates on the Constitution that address the challenges of achieving a digital society in order to involve a large number of ordinary people in the discussions.

To have credible constitutional debates that rise above partisan politics, it is also necessary to start discussing issues that politicians in power appear unwilling to address, such as the right to dissolve the lower house and Diet reform.

(The interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Deputy Editor Nobutaka Kuribayashi.)

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tatsuhiko Yamamoto, professor at Keio University

Tatsuhiko Yamamoto, Keio University Professor

Yamamoto, 45, graduated from the law department of Keio University, specializing in constitutional law. He has been a professor at the university since 2014. He is the author of “Puraibashi no Kenri o Kangaeru” (Thoughts on privacy rights) and “AI to Kenpo” (AI and the Constitution).