An internal investigation is being conducted by the Ministry of Japan, after a Google Groups account used for international treaty negotiations was left on its default, publicly viewable settings. The group was created by an official from the Ministry of Japan in order to share mails and documents which are related to negotiations in Japan during the Minamata Convention.
The meeting was held in January 2013 in Geneva with an aim to create international standards to limit international mercury use. However, the official then used the default privacy setting and left the exchanges open to searches and views in the months after the meeting. As of now, the information has been removed.
Michihiru Oi, an official from the ministry said, “The majority of the information that was accessible was not secret, but we’re conducting an investigation into the details now”. Oi went on to say that the ministry has its own system for creating groups and sharing documents, but the system does not always function well outside of Japan.
Sometimes, the system leads to poor connections and a bad working environment. Yomiuri Shimbun, which has the highest circulation of Japan’s newspapers, said that more than 6,000 items – including private contact information of officials – was publicly accessible. After the news broke, Japanese Minister of the Environment immediately ordered a new data security group.