In an embarrassing show of ineptitude, Japanese government officials and journalists have found themselves put on the spot after they used the wrong privacy settings for online discussions on Google Groups, which meant anyone could see their internal exchanges.
Officials from at least six government ministries and agencies used the default settings on Google Groups, which allow public access to discussion threads, AFP reports, citing Japanese broadcaster NHK.
Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported that there were more than 6,000 cases in which information from public or private organizations had been made publicly available, according to AFP. Ironically, the Yomiuri also admitted its journalists had been using the wrong settings on Google Groups and may have revealed draft stories and interview transcripts.
Officials from Japan’s environment ministry had reportedly used Google Groups to share information, including planned talking points for negotiations on an international mercury trade treaty and exchanges made with their Swiss and Norwegian counterparts.
A spokesman from the environment ministry was cited as saying in the report that officials have taken “corrective steps”, adding that though the memos were not “top secret”, they were also not meant for public release.
According to AFP, the Yomiuri also reported that hospitals and schools had uploaded patients’ and students’ records, and at least one political party also used the service, revealing a list of its supporters in the process.
Japan is currently experiencing nascent engagement with the Internet in the public sector. Japanese politicians have been flocking to social networks to increase their social engagement after a bill allowing political organizations in Japan to use the Internet during election campaigns was passed. In May, it was revealed that 10 political parties have opened official accounts on Line.
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