Walking a bunch of papers down the street on a windy day. What could go wrong?

The Aichi prefectural government has issued an official apology for improper handling of the personal data of 121 resident households. The incident took place on April 19 and involved data pertaining to residents of government assisted housing at four buildings under the jurisdiction of the Prefectural Public Housing Division.

However, the data was neither leaked by an unscrupulous worker nor stolen by hackers. Instead it was taken by the wind.

As part of the regular administration of the government housing program, data needed to be transferred from a public corporation office to the Aichi prefectural government capital building in Nagoya. Unfortunately, this data was stored on physical media, which, as we’ve seen before, can cause problems for Japanese government agencies. There was the time, for example, when the Tokyo police department lost citizens’ data that they’d stored on floppy discs, or that other time when a city employee in Hyogo Prefecture got drunk, passed out, and lost a USB memory stick with residents’ personal information on it.

The Aichi government’s blunder was even more old-school, however, as it was carrying out its data transfer by physically transporting 1,696 pieces of paper, placed inside a cardboard box. What’s more, they upped the degree of difficulty by opting to transport the box in a handcart and having someone walk it over, out on the streets, to its destination, instead of driving it over. Oh, and they decided to do this on a day with strong winds.

The silent-era comedy movie setup was, it seems, too much for fate to resist. Before the public corporation employee who was pushing the cart reached the capital building, the cart tipped over and the box opened up as it tumbled out. Though the worker attempted to grab the documents, two hands aren’t nearly enough to snatch 1,696 papers, and many blew away. The search for scattered documents continued until sunset, at which point the Aichi government began contacting affected residents to inform them of the data leak/blow-away. The search continued for two more days, but without all of the documents being recovered.

According to the statement from the Aichi government, the documents included the government housing residents’ names (the leaseholder, in the case of families) and “rent” for the month of April, ostensibly referring to written records of the amount residents paid, since no mention has been made of cash being lost in the incident.

No improper use of the lost data has been discovered at this time, and in addition to issuing an apology the Aichi prefectural government says it plans to switch to digital records for this part of housing administration process, which will allow them to transfer data without any weather or cart balance concerns.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun via Livedoor News via Jin, Chunichi Shimbun, Aichi Prefectural Government
Top image: Pakutaso
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