In addition to being disclosed in printed reports, statistical tables of official statistics in Japan are disclosed through e-Stat, the portal site for official statistics of the Japanese government. This makes it easy to access statistical tables on the internet. Recently, in order to further improve the efficacy of use for statistical data, improvements are being made to the functionality of open-data in official statistics. Specifically, efforts are being made to further improve the potential for use as open-data by 1) developing a usage environment via an API (Application Programming Interface) function and 2) enhancing statistical GIS functions.
In Japan, provision of official microdata is performed based on the Statistics Act (Act No. 53 of 2007). The provision of individual data and the creation/provision of Anonymized microdata (microdata created by applying anonymization techniques to questionnaire information) in Japan has been performed pursuant to the provisions of the articles of the current Statistics Act (Article 33: Provision of Questionnaire Information; Article 35: Production of Anonymized Microdata; Article 36: Provision of Anonymized Microdata). Furthermore, in Japan, it is possible to pay a fee for tailored aggregation of statistical surveys (Article 34: Production of Statistics, etc. by Entrustment)
Here are the legal procedures related to the creation of Anonymized microdata in fundamental statistical surveys. First, in regards to the creation of Anonymized microdata for a fundamental statistical survey, the director of the administrative agency which is the authority concerned issues an inquiry to the Statistics Commission. Next, after the Anonymized Data Sub-Committee of the Statistics Commission reviews the anonymity of Anonymized microdata for the fundamental statistical survey, the details of deliberation at the Anonymized Data Sub-Committee are reported to the Statistics Commission. The Statistics Commission then reports on the validity of methods for creating Anonymized microdata. After that, Anonymized microdata is created and provided at the responsibility of the Statistics Creation Bureau. Currently, Anonymized microdata is provided from seven surveys in Japan, including the Population Census. However, for almost all statistical surveys from which Anonymized microdata is created, only one type of Anonymized microdata is created. Therefore, discussions are currently being held on methods for creating multiple types of Anonymized microdata to meet the needs of users.
In order to use Anonymized microdata, it is necessary to apply for use of anonymized data based on Guidelines for Creation and Provision of Anonymized Data (created by the Director-General for Policy Planning of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (in charge of statistical standards)). In addition to mainly restricting the use of Anonymized microdata to academic research and education, the Guidelines for Production and Provision of Anonymized Data also require clarification for the range of users, usage period, usage location, and storage location of anonymized data when applying for use. In this respect, Anonymized microdata in Japan differs from public use files which can be accessed by anyone without restriction on purpose of use.
Application for the use of individual data intended for use in academic research is filed based on “Guidelines on Application of Article 33 of the Statistics Act” (created by the Director-General for Policy Planning of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (in charge of statistical standards)), which list detailed rules on procedures for the creation and provision of questionnaire information. Under the current Guidelines, when applying to use individual data of government statistics, it is assumed that only the minimum required variables (survey items) for conducting empirical analysis are used. On the other hand, there is a high level of need for exploratory use of groups of variables contained in individual data. In many western countries, researchers with access authorization for individual data are able to use individual data at secure environments such as on-site facilities and through remote access from university laboratories, etc. In these countries, instead of performing advance screenings of aggregate tables created for analysis and of analysis models, examiners perform a confidentiality check for analysis results after the individual data has been analyzed at on-site facilities or through remote access. Based on these conditions, Japan is also currently discussing the possibility of using individual data at on-site facilities in our country.