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Storing data on individuals seeking information disclosure by the Defense Agency and Air and Ground Self-Defense Forces does not pose any legal problems, according to an in-house investigation made public Tuesday.

Compiling private data unnecessary for requesting information disclosure and showing it to officials unrelated to the service was suspected of violating a 1988 law regulating the handling of computerized personal information by government organizations, agency officials said.

Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani earlier said circulating such private data may be problematic, even if there is nothing illegal in the act.

The probe concluded that the practice does not violate the law because lists on local computer networks were modified so that individual information seekers were not identified.

The report does not mention the suspected coverups of the controversial lists.

Shinichi Udagawa, director of the agency’s Personnel and Education Bureau who headed the internal probe on the matter, said it was inappropriate for the agency “to have given the public an impression that illegal lists of personal data were posted on the LANs.”

However, the report fails to answer the fundamental question of why the agency had to sort out information seekers by such categories as “the media” and “(voluntary) ombudsman.”

Agency officials briefing reporters did not explain why the agency wanted to keep tabs on who was seeking what kind of information, and simply repeated that such data was designed to carry out their tasks smoothly.

The probe, meanwhile, determined that a list on information seekers made by a Maritime Self-Defense Force lieutenant commander did violate the law.

In addition to such data on information seekers as names and occupations, the MSDF list carried sensitive information on the individuals such as “antiwar SDF official” and “mother of unsuccessful SDF applicant.”

Such information on individual citizens exceeded the bounds of the rules allowing government officials to collect data, the report says.

The agency has said that the MSDF list was personally made by the official.

The evaluation of the case draws attention as it would be an effective precedent for application of the law, which is now being discussed in the Diet for amendment. It is believed to be one of the rare cases in which the government’s dealing with private data on individuals has developed into a major controversy.

In compiling the report on the probe, the agency has consulted with the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Post and Telecommunications supervising the law.

It was also learned via the probe that the Defense Facilities Administration Agency also made lists of personal data on information seekers, which included their names, and posted it on its computer network.

DFAA officials have so far denied the existence of any problematic lists within the organization.

The report says the lists of the agency, the DFAA and the GSDF and ASDF were compiled by officials at their information disclosure offices at their discretion, denying commitment of higher officials at the agency.

The lists were circulated on their computer local area networks so that anybody having access to the LANs were able to view the lists. Such a practice has drawn criticism as the law prohibits government officials from using private data obtained in the course of duties and leaking it to third parties.

The report stops short of responding to suspicion that the agency might have attempted to cover up what were then thought to be illegal lists following a May 28 report on the MSDF list.

It was six days after the MSDF list was reported in the media that the agency announced that similar lists carrying personal data on information seekers were compiled at the information disclosure offices at the agency as well as ground and air forces, and were circulated through computer local area networks.

There was suspicion that the agency might have attempted to cover up the fact as top officials of the agency and the forces had denied the existence of questionable lists within their organizations.

The agency was harshly criticized for a suspected coverup when it was revealed Thursday that the agency and the ASDF deleted questionable personal information from the lists on their LANs soon after the May 28 media report.

Nevertheless, the report simply says there was no attempt for cover up anything because the original lists were saved and eventually presented to the probe. It was inappropriate for officials at the information disclosure offices to delete the data without consulting higher agency officials, it said.

The scandal has also raised doubts among the public that the agency’s standard for information disclosure may differ depending on individual information seekers, although the agency has repeatedly denied this.

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