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Google Groups blunder exposes THOUSANDS of Japanese govt emails

Messages are public-by-default you say? Oh dear...

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The Japanese government has admitted sharing thousands of email conversations with world+dog after a mix-up over Google Groups' privacy settings.

Officials from several ministries shared messages on the free web-based service without realising that the default setting is for public access to all discussions, the Daily Yomiuri reported.

Staff at the Environment Ministry; Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry; and Reconstruction Agency all seem to have leaked.

“Our security awareness was weak,” an Environment Ministry official told the paper.

Blunders at the ministry exposed emails sent back in January relating to government negotiations at the Minamata Convention on Mercury, including those of its chief negotiator Ryutaro Yatsu.

All offending messages have now been made private, however, the ministry has apparently begun an investigation into the accidental leak, suspecting the use of Google Groups may have violated internal regulations.

“We have our own internal system to share e-mails, but we used Google because it was convenient,” an official told the Yomiuri.

The Japanese government is not the only institution to be left red-faced after the revelations. Data affecting 5,000 people was apparently exposed in the same way by various private businesses and medical institutions.

Although not mentioned in its own story, the Yomiuri has also admitted some of its journalists accidentally revealed draft stories and interview transcripts thanks to Google Groups blunders, AFP claimed.

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