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2014年7月13日 (日)

ベネッセ漏洩 不安に陥れた責任は重大だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Benesse must be held accountable for leakage of children’s data
ベネッセ漏洩 不安に陥れた責任は重大だ

We must condemn the apparent lack of responsibility shown by a corporation entrusted with huge amounts of children’s personal information.

Benesse Holdings Inc. has announced that personal information of up to 20.7 million customers may have been leaked from group company Benesse Corp. The leaks comprise data on children learning through the firm’s correspondence courses, including Shinkenzemi for preschool children and schoolchildren, and the company-run prep schools, as well as data on their parents.

This is one of the largest customer information leakage incidents in the nation’s history. The Metropolitan Police Department has begun investigations of the data leaks as a potential violation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Law, which prohibits disclosure of trade secrets. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is taking the incident very seriously, and has issued instructions to Benesse to submit a report based on the Personal Information Protection Law about how the information leaks occurred, and related details.

In a news conference Wednesday, Benesse Holdings executives emphasized someone from outside the company with access rights to the firm’s customer database is believed to have secretly taken the data and sold it illegally to name list traders.

Even though there may have been no involvement of any Benesse employees in the leaks, the company bears a heavy responsibility for the outcome due to its failure to prevent the massive information leaks.

Among the leaked data are children’s names, birth dates, addresses and phone numbers. Ages of the victims vary widely from infants to high school students.

There are reports that the leaked data has already been traded among name list traders and used to send direct mail advertising from correspondence course providers.

Info leaks endless

As the number of children in Japan continues to dwindle, competition has grown ever sharper among businesses targeting children. Information on children is said to be in high demand, as a means for promoting products for children and soliciting by education-related firms.

Many people have likely had the experience of receiving pamphlets mailed from formal wear rental companies or other companies around the time of their children’s Shichigosan festivals for 3-, 5- and 7-year-olds, and Seijinshiki coming-of-age ceremonies.

In the event of the data being abused, there would arise fears of children being victimized in criminal offenses. The data must obviously be handled with utmost scrupulousness.

Benesse has reportedly been inundated with inquiries and complaints, including demands to know whether personal data of the inquirers’ children was included in the leaked information. It is only natural for parents and guardians to feel worried about the data leaks.

The leakage issue will inevitably impact Benesse’s business operations negatively. But the company must do its best to make every possible effort to prevent a recurrence of such problems and to restore public confidence in the company. This is a test for Eiko Harada, who was installed as chairman and chief executive officer of Benesse Holdings in June. His reputation for competence is at stake in steering the company through this challenge.

There has been an unending succession of leaks of personal information held by businesses.

The number of customer data and related information leaks from credit card firms and others stood at 319 in fiscal 2012, according to the Consumer Affairs Agency. Up to 70 percent of the affected companies had failed to take such measures as encrypting data and imposing access restrictions, the agency said.

Businesses are of course obliged to administer their customer data with utmost caution. Every company should reconfirm whether its information management and security systems are sufficiently reliable.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 11, 2014)


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