Top firms’ classified info leaked on Baidu

JIJI, Kyodo

Large amounts of confidential internal documents and materials of major Japanese companies from the past two years are currently available for viewing at China’s Baidu Library document-sharing website, sources said.

Shanghai-based lawyer Yusuke Wakebe, who is investigating the issue, said Wednesday the leaked information includes the technical data of a major manufacturer prior to a patent application and an advertising firm’s proposal on a client project. Many of the uploaded documents were marked “For Internal Use Only” or “Classified.”

Jiji Press found internal documents leaked to Baidu Library from leading companies, including Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and Sony Corp.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said it plans to gather information on the leaks, acknowledging there have been complaints from industries.

The Japan External Trade Organization, which has already started a full investigation, called on domestic companies doing business in China to impose strict controls on internal data.

Documents from Toyota included an organization chart for the automaker’s headquarters as well as the complaint-processing manual of its Chinese joint venture. Materials marked for internal use only were leaked from China-based affiliates of Sony and Hitachi, while what are believed to be internal contracts involving Canon Inc. also have been posted on the website.

Users of Baidu Library receive points for uploading documents and can use them to download other papers and materials from the site. Anyone can browse the site’s materials, whether they have points or not.

Wakebe, the Shanghai lawyer, and Japanese firms whose documents were leaked said most of the data seem to have been uploaded by Chinese employees at joint venture affiliates or their customers to acquire points.

“Once the internal data of a company are disclosed on the Internet, the business’ information management ability is questioned and its credibility will be hurt, whatever the confidentiality level of the information,” Wakebe said.

Sony’s Chinese subsidiary said it has asked Baidu to delete documents from the site on a case-by-case basis, and Hitachi’s said it has been regularly monitoring the site and requesting the removal of its materials. Toyota’s affiliate in China declined comment, as did a Canon spokesman in Tokyo.

An MHI official said the firm believes a document containing its corporate name was fabricated, as it appears to be a contract regarding another company’s product.