crime

Tokyo police admit to losing 38 citizens’ personal data…that was stored on floppy disks

54 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Usually, when you hear about an organization having lost data, it actually means that the files have been deleted or corrupted. But in the case of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, this week they discovered that they really don’t know where the files containing personal information for over three dozen people are.

So why don’t they just run a database search to pinpoint the data they’re trying to track down? Because the files aren’t in a database – they’re stored on floppy disks.

In the latest example of how Japan is both a country that loves shiny new gadgets yet is also frequently willing to employ an if-it’s-not-broken-don’t-fix-it policy towards sunsetting technology, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s Organized Crime Countermeasures Section 3 has lost two floppy disks containing personal information regarding 38 men, between the ages of 20 and 89, who applied for municipal housing in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward. The disks were provided by Meguro Ward as part of an investigation into whether or not any of the applicants had ties to criminal organizations such as the yakuza. The first floppy disk was provided to the police for an inquiry in in December of 2019, and the second in February of this year.

It hasn’t been publicly specified whether the disks were of the 5¼ or 3½-inch size, but either format was long out of use by those dates. It’s also unclear when the files were initially created, as the police may have been investigating individuals whose Meguro housing applications were made and recorded several years ago, back when floppy disks were a more widespread choice of storage medium.

In any case, while Meguro Ward gave both disks to the police, in July they noticed that they hadn’t gotten either back. When they requested their return, Organized Crime Countermeasures Section 3 checked the locked storage room the disks were supposed to be in, only for them to be nowhere to be found. “We deeply apologize to the 38 involved individuals for this grave error,” said Organized Crime Countermeasures Section 3 chief Hiroshi Miyamoto in a statement. “We will provide thorough guidance to our personnel to ensure that this sort of incident does not occur again.”

The files contained the individuals’ names and dates of birth, and none of the men were found to have any connections to organized crime. Thankfully, as of this time, no leaks or misuse of the information have been confirmed, and there remains a possibility that the disks weren’t stolen, but accidentally thrown out by someone within the department who, from their obsolete format, assumed that they were trash that was no longer needed. The 38 affected individuals can hopefully also take some comfort in the fact that even if the disks are still floating around out there somewhere, whoever stumbles across them won’t be able to get at their personal information without a PC with a floppy disk drive, something that fewer and fewer people have access to.

Nevertheless, the police are still searching for the disks and trying to figure out how they went missing.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko, NHK News Web

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

54 Comments
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The last time I used those floppy disks was probably more than 15 years ago, and I am not surprised that someone in Japan still uses them. Well, the silver lining on this story is that whoever will find those discs will most likely not have the means to access them anyway, but it is still a security breach on their part. I wonder what other obsolete tech are still being used in Japan?

13 ( +14 / -1 )

I would like to know how to transfer from floppy to usb, i still have some Great poems i wrote 20 yrs ago and saved it on my one and only floppy disk i still have it.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

If you need additional information please send a fax to Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

14 ( +22 / -8 )

Only in japan

5 ( +14 / -9 )

Can you imagine the staff going through 100s if not thousands of floppy disks looking for the missing ones? If only they had some sort of data base where everything was filed, like you see on those films about the future.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

...there are almost no words. This reads like some kind of sad comedy a first year film major cooked up - floppy disks? Seriously?! I wasn't even aware that there were still computers that had the floppy disk reader. I can't remember the last time I used floppy disks - maybe back in middle school? Gods this entire article just sad and absurd.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Chottobaka

Today 08:16 am JST

If you need additional information please send a fax to Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

Fax? I think you're better off sending a telegraph. Or maybe smoke signals?

3 ( +11 / -8 )

I remember it being very common to find magnetic disks in use by all kinds of people here, until very, very recently. It took forever for USB-A is to replace this media.

People here have yet to embrace the cloud, as CD/DVD is still pretty ubiquitous here when it comes go music and video as well....

Mind you, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" kind of attitude is fine, especially if use is ubiquitous and people are happy doing it and it's acceptable by society to do so.

Meanwhile, physical media is making a come back in much of the world outside of Japan, and here it never left. Advantage: Japan.

And the Cloud and subscription-based software model is not all it's cracked up to be. Japan better to resist as much as it can, IMHO.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

I would like to know how to transfer from floppy to usb, 

I believe USB floppy disk drives are available to purchase. They should work provided you didn’t format the disks with an exotic format.

I have not used floppies since, well, the first USB memory dongles became available twenty or so odd years ago. Since their inception, floppies have been capacity constrained, but they are adequate for storing a few text files (as we can see from the article).

Sony discontinued the manufacture of floppy disks more than a decade ago.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Maybe that's why the prosecution recently chose not to prosecute shinzo abe...because their evidence was also stored on floppy disks which they lost. The possibility is actually there.

“We will provide thorough guidance to our personnel to ensure that this sort of incident does not occur again.”

Usual empty statement meaning absolutely nothing. Useless bunch of circus clowns.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I would like to know how to transfer from floppy to usb,

Just get an external USB A one. But you'll need a computer with a USB A drive (rare these days, although Apple just brought it back in their laptops). Or get the drive and an adapter if only USB C... Still I hear you, it's a hassle.

Don't ask me if windows 11 or 10 will work with it though. I do know XP works fine. Wouldn't be surprised if MS covertly killed off compatibly completely...

Or you could take the opportunity to just go Linux man, and embrace freedom. MS has made a complete mess of Windoze anyway. Good time to get off the treadmill. Got out more than 15 years ago and never looked back.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

“We will provide thorough guidance to our personnel to ensure that this sort of incident does not occur again.”

No you won’t.

Never mind the type of media being used as opposed to the amount of incompetence being shown by the typical J-Police.

What CAN they actually do?

I mean there’s so much, they CAN’T do……

They can’t find criminals, criminals find them at the koban.

They can’t manage files, digital or physical.

They can’t patrol properly, hard to do when they are sleeping in the koban.

They CAN harass kids on bikes and women in public places.

Ahhh, there it is.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

I used a floppy disk last week to copy an old MS-DOS game onto a HDD so we could play it.

I have both 5.25 and 3.5inch floppies AND drives that can read them still. Have a 160Kb single-sided floppy, somewhere, but I doubt the current 5.25inch drive will find any data on the media.

For Xmas, got a DVD+/- RW device. We don't use HD-DVD or BluRay stuff here due to their broken-by-design DRM.

Had a side responsibility at work where I migrated data from old 1/4inch tapes to 4mm tapes in the mid-1990s. Some of the data was one of a kind from the Apollo missions. At home, I still have some QIC-80 and QIC-250 tapes with system backups from the mid-1990s. Those may be important ... someday. Even some commercial DVDs from 2000 have gone bad on me. THAT gets makes me unhappy. If long term storage is important - say 50+ yrs, then there are 2 choices.

m-disc

bi-annual data migration to whatever the current format is

Be certain to have at least 3 copies of the data and add some parity to the data files, so bit-rot can be seen and fixed. RAR with PAR2 files is the typical method. Trusting only the CRCs added by hardware has proven to be less-than-sufficient in my real-world use.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Can imagine this was placed in the “Crime” section because it again concerns the periodic J police & administrative incompetence but have some additional questions for the editor: 1) What is the J law regarding officials safeguarding private information and can other employees from other agencies beheld accountable; 2) who specifically was responsibly for the data on this occasion (OCC Sect 3 chief Hiroshi Miyamoto?); and 3) who specifically will be charged with a “CrimeIF such a law was violated ?

… or, does this all just end with the standard Japanese fallback ? :

-“*We will provide thorough guidance to our personnel to ensure that this sort of incident does not occur *again” -

1 ( +3 / -2 )

USB connected external FDD are available on ebay for under £20. I have one in my spares box.

Internal, used drives can be had for under a tenner if your motherboard still has an adaptor.

Backwards compatibility is usually retained on PC mobos for a long time as some are used in industrial environments. Someone, somewhere may be running a nuclear power station safety system on a 286 DOS PC with a FDD.

If you need them, blank disks can still be had too, 3.5" and 5.25", although they were not designed to last this long. 8" are thinner on the ground.

Retro computing enthusiasts still use floppies (and audio cassettes) to get software on to some machines, although memory card interfaces are available for the more popular systems. Word 4 or 5.1 for the Mac on floppies will set you back a good few quid (Claris Works is cheaper). Using an old system to write on removes the temptation to surf and check your e-mail.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Apparently, it wasn’t a ‘active investigation’ like murder or rape, looking for specific suspects. - So, then was it a form of ‘profiling’, that allegedly doesn’t happen in Japan? -

- “personal information regarding 38 men, between the ages of 20 and 89, who applied for municipal housing in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward. The files contained the individuals’ names and dates of birth, and none of the men were found to have any connections to organized crime.” -

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

And “Congratulations!” to the intrepid reporter/writer, who uncovered such an internal story. Apparently working on traditional reporting (at least this time, without the aid of Twitter). Seems like an 80’s movie or TV show but let’s root for him/her/they to crack this case open and ‘recover the discs’ before the data, the hapless victims or the police are corrupted by ‘organized crime’ or some ‘nefarious, mustache-twirling villains’ from abroad.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My carrier pigeon is down with a cold.

Carrier pigeon? How modern. In Japan, the fax machine predates carrier pigeon, semaphore, smoke signals, and even cave paintings.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Why didn't they just fax the information through?

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Also, I would sue these idiotic clowns for damages if I had my data lost by them. It really pisses me off how in this country organizations think it's OK to give a freaking apology without any monetary compensation in return. Unless these morons feel it in their pockets, nothing will ever change. I've seen it happen in the private sector too. You ask for a financial compensation like a simple refund and they're totally surprised that you dare ask such a thing after they've so painstakingly given you their ever so profound but utterly useless apology.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

no wonder the police here are so slow in everything they do - they are still using 1990s tech....

1 ( +3 / -2 )

SoraNews highlights bits and parts in a wonky if not misleading way and as a result most people miss the real point here, me thinks...

*...the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s Organized Crime Countermeasures Section 3 has lost two floppy disks containing personal information regarding 38 men, between the ages of 20 and 89, who applied for municipal housing in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward. The disks were provided by Meguro Ward as part of an investigation into whether or not any of the applicants had ties to criminal organizations such as the yakuza.*

*It’s also unclear when the files were initially created**, as the police may have been investigating individuals whose Meguro housing applications were made and recorded several years ago, back when floppy disks were a more widespread choice of storage medium.*

So Meguro Ward was still using floppies in the past (when exactly is unclear). As for me, I used floppies in the past too, until end 90s, so what? The police lost the floppies they borrowed which is the real big problem here.

*When they requested their return, Organized Crime Countermeasures Section 3 checked the locked storage room the disks were supposed to be in, only for them to be nowhere to be found. *

Again, this here is the really big problem, and not the format of the data. I would check the whole inventory of the "locked" storage room as it is poised to contain pretty "hot" stuff (i.e. the storage room is locked for a reason!). You know, just to insure nothing else is "missing".

The files contained the individuals’ names and dates of birth, and none of the men were found to have any connections to organized crime.

Well, let's give the J-cops the presumption of innocence on this one if it comes to malicious intent, but this could also be damage control, as if no connections to organized crime at all, then the floppies should have been returned to Meguro Ward instead of lingering in the locked storage room for no reason (again, maybe the returning process was on-going or pending for a hanko, who knows...).

We are looking at sloppy procedures around data management here and if we're talking police work, data management is a critical component of case evidencing and building, hence ultimately case prosecuting and sentencing. This is serious!

...there remains a possibility that the disks weren’t stolen, but accidentally thrown out by someone within the department who, from their obsolete format, assumed that they were trash that was no longer needed.

This is indeed a strong possibility, buuuuuut if anybody (with access to this "locked" room) can enter and take out anything without any trace this points to very sloppy processes / security around a room supposedly containing hot information linked to organized crime which is again the key problem here. Next time they may end up destroying(?) important data pertaining to an active case(s)...

Nothing and everything can be implied here (i.e. genuine error, a mole in the force, etc). One thing is for sure: the J-cops need to get serious about the procedures and security as in the 21st century, this is pretty much keystone cops-level...

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Why didn't they just fax the information through?

Fax? I heard they use teletype. ;)

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Surprised that they were not on punch cards....do not fold, spindle, or mutilate!

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Hilarious! What’s a floppy disc? Do they still have computers that will read and write them? Japan wants to put men on the moon but they are still storing data on floppy discs. What an embarrassing situation!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

purple_depressed_baconToday  09:03 am JST

...there are almost no words. This reads like some kind of sad comedy a first year film major cooked up - floppy disks? Seriously?! I wasn't even aware that there were still computers that had the floppy disk reader. I can't remember the last time I used floppy disks - maybe back in middle school? Gods this entire article just sad and absurd.

When i was i in HS we used big flat Verex disks. Then came the floppies. In college during the 90s we used them but already we were using bigger storage disks, esp. for audio and video projects. I haven't used a floppy since maybe 2006. They're dinosaurs.

As for CD/DVD and enhanced CDs, they're the tops. Best audio, and the recently introduced CD-2 technology from Japan makes them sound even better than before - it makes the music really come alive.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I know where they are.

They're on the shelf right between 'Where in the world is Carmen San Diego' and 'Oregon Trail'.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

We might as well be thankful that they were stored on floppy disks. For that reason, the number of victims was limited to under forty (~20 people / floppy). If those had even been 4GB USB sticks, the casualties would have been a thousandfold...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Toshihiro

"I wonder what other obsolete tech are still being used in Japan?"

Well, you should've seen the struggle for Japan to move away from Windows XP. I'd dare say there are plenty of systems out there still running that, and Windows 7.

Fax machines.

About 8 years ago, I had to help a coworker solve a compatibility problem with a particular program. The format of the screen looked familiar, and old. It was written for Windows 3.1.

"It hasn’t been publicly specified whether the disks were of the 5¼ or 3½-inch size"

I have no words.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It's impossible to hack a floppy disc!!! Very smart!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

How sad, but I have of course a hint for everything. The bigger data is on the 8” inch disks. Only smaller computers were equipped with only 5.25” and later 3.5” floppy drives. The bigger computers in companies or administrative offices had 8” drives and floppies. If it doesn’t help, I can tell you also about mainframe computers and their storage options. But that’s another story, completely without floppy disks… lol

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What is a floppy disk? I guess it's better to lose ancient media that only stores 38 files than an SSD stick with the capacity to store millions. As far as I know, only the Tokyo Police and NORAD still use floppy disks...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

From the title I assumed it was 20 years old disks that were not transfered to a new system, but no ... it's floppies from 2019 ...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I guess it's better to lose ancient media that only stores 38 files

Floppy disks can store, in theory, over 4,000 files at up to 32 directories deep. That’s insane for 720/1440 kilobyte media, so floppy disks are not as backward as you might think.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's impossible to hack a floppy disc!!!

They are not secure.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Not sure I’d be happy with the local authority doing a criminal record check off the back of a housing application at all, let alone using an insecure format.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Three or four years back I was at a Kanto police station getting my international licence for an upcoming trip. The cop on the desk asked me for my e-ticket to prove I was travelling. I showed this to him on my phone, but he insisted on a paper copy, which I had to drive home to print out, because the police station didn't do email.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Why is it that outside Japan, there’s this image that it’s all futuristic and all that, and then you get here, and it’s fax machines, cash, and floppy disks!

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

When just about everything is done on paper in Japan, I wouldn't be surprised if the floppy was thought of as the database for these cops

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I remember floppy disks!

Something,I was using 40 years ago…

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I love this story! Thanks JT!

After the crazy world news, it's good to get a laugh now and then. (And the comments above were pretty good too.)

There are some quirky or anachronistic things about Japan that we all run across once in awhile. Enjoy those when you see them. They are mostly harmless.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Yet, there are some people that still believe Japan is a very technologically advanced country. Maybe that was true, when floppy disks were cutting-edge tech.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

What else is new???

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I haven't even had an optical drive in my computer or laptop in years. I took the CD player out of my car, as it was just wasting space I could use for other things.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Floppies and optical drives? That must be some fancy new tech. I remember going to the shiakushou and watching a women using a mechanical kanji typewriter. And she was fast. Arms and hands flying all over the place.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I have still old floppy disks with data on it, among them some personal pictures, and a floppy disk reader. A few years back, I even bought some new ones, just in case, before it goes out of the shelves.

Min the case of police, all data should have been transferred but , it is very common that companies still have old data on paper or floppy disks. Just part of the archives.

Floppies are not dead yet

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I only use Elephant 5 1/4 Floppy disks and have not seen any of these issues.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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