back to article Japan's ubiquitous convenience stores now serving up privacy breaches

Japan's minister for digital transformation and digital reform, Taro Kono, has apologized after a government app breached citizens' privacy. The app is called the "Certificate Issuing Server" and, as explained by the municipal government of Kodaira City, allows residents to print documents such as certificates that prove they' …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The name of the minister is wrong. The correct name is Taro Kono (河野太郎).

  2. TchmilFan

    Something something pun about Horizon

    At least, no-one’s ended up in jail because of this Fujitsu blunder.

    1. UCAP Silver badge

      Re: Something something pun about Horizon

      At least, no-one’s ended up in jail because of this Fujitsu blunder.


    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Something something pun about Horizon

      WRT the Post Office scandal, whilst Fujitsu's software wasn't the greatest, the largest part of the blame for the wrongful convictions lies with those too lazy to check the software's reporting, and presenting said data as "fact". In my view there were a number of failings. The Post Office didn't verify its evidence. The Courts did not force the Post Office to verify its evidence, repeatedly allowing convictions based on a single unverified source of evidence.

      In my opinion, whilst Fujitsu is part of this chain of failure, the Courts' failure to understand or even inquire independently of the quality of the evidence being presented to them is the ultimate real problem. If courts are unable to determine sworn bullshit from sworn fact, you cannot have a fair trial.

      The inquiry into this is still going on. However, part of the problem with the inquiry is that it is a former judge running it; one wonders how open he is to examining the role of the judiciary in admitting the evidence in the first place. Historically, when "science" has gone wrong in court cases, they're not exactly keen to examine why. There's repeatedly been miscarriages of justice due to "trusted experts" turning out to be bullshitters - the Post Office scandal, the role of Roy Meadows in the Munchausen-by-proxy baby deaths wrongful convictions. Years ago there was even a rape conviction that hinged solely on DNA evidence; the conviction was overturned, because the convicted man was wealthy enough to commission his own forensic test that showed that, yes, he was a close match but definitely not a perfect match; he won at appeal. That case resulted in a change in the standards required for DNA evidence. The point is, the initial standard that he successfully discredited had been set by "trusted experts", who turned out to have been bullshitting, and had resulted in wrongful convictions.


      For DNA evidence, worse still, there's been proven cases of genetic chimerics in the US courts - a child care fraud case was overturned when it turned out a woman's reproductive organs really did have a different genetic make up to the rest of her body.

      Science has no idea how common this trait is. There is very little data, so it is considered rare. But again, it's bullshitting; medical science has no evidence for how rare or common it is, and adopts the view "we've not seen it much, so it must be rare". However, you cannot really systematically measure the occurrence of this condition without detailed examination of a large number of corpses, cm cube by cm cube, which is not something that's really possible to do. So far as I know, no one has ever done a systematic study.

      So, with every piece of DNA evidence - whether accusatory or exonerationary, there is doubt; we don't really know if there is a reliable read across from the DNA profile derived from, say, a mouth swab to the DNA profile of samples from other parts of the body. It's assumed to be reliable. Yet this doubt is not explained to courts, or investigators, and this too has (in the US) resulted in wrongful convictions that were very difficult to overturn.

      In that particular case, it was overturned by means of having a court official witness the birth of the woman's second child, and a DNA analysis of that child and the mother to prove the genetic discrepancy. The Judge in the case ended up saying that he now had no idea whether he could ever trust DNA evidence ever again.

      1. abetancort

        Re: Something something pun about Horizon

        What you are talking is a well known genetic situation that is called chimerism, rare, but well studied. A person or animal born out of two fused embryos that would have produced twins but in this case one embryo absorbs the other and the resulting fetus and afterwards person may have cells with the DNA of the absorbed embryo and cells of the prevailing embryo. The DNA changes usually in certain organs but it doesn’t have to.

        If North American geneticists do not know about this circumstance then it’s a problem with American experts and not a problem with proper made DNA tests

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Something something pun about Horizon

          Oh, certainly some American geneticists do know about it, because they were involved in getting the conviction overturned. However, I fear you've made the same mistake as "experts" are often very prone to doing:

          "a well known genetic situation that is called chimerism, rare, but well studied"

          Unless a comprehensive, statistically sound systematic study quantifying the occurrence rate of this condition can be cited, all that can be said is that it is a condition that is rarely encountered, and be very clear that as to the reason why.

          In this particular case, there was no such data available at the time. To the best of my knowledge there still isn't. Even the references cited by the Wikipedia article on the topic admit that tetragametic chimerism is of unknown occurrence, and could be quite high. What's interesting is that the reference in Wikipedia isn't even a published, peer reviewed paper; it's just a short blog. That probably means that science, officially, is mute on the topic. Yet almost everyone (including yourself it seems) would be absolutely certain that it is a rare condition.

          Honestly, you'd think with this unquantified uncertainty lurking in the background of genetics, you'd think that courts should be pretty skeptical of genetic differences being presented on behalf of prosecutions (such as child care / custody cases), or at least have a standard for considering the possibility of a chimeric. But I severely doubt it. The view that "DNA matches are generally correct" is so deeply entrenched in the popular psyche, it takes a lot of imagination to to even think to ask the question, "are we really sure?". If I correctly recall the outcome of the case in the US, the perceived "rarity" of the condition was used as a justification to not alter court procedures for similar cases...

          Peer Review? Nope

          A major problem is that the way such scientific data is handled in the criminal investigation / prosecution system is that it is strictly procedural. There is zero room for the forensic scientist to deviate, inquire, question the standards. If they've been told, "do this and if it's not a match, you say so", that what they have to do; they've been told, "the procedure is safe, follow it". You don't get peer review of evidence, there's no space for academic curiosity and to say, "hang on a mo, I read a paper on this".

          Currently the court system relies on there being sufficient numbers of eventual successful appeals. Though as we've seen with cases like those involving Horizon and also Roy Meadows, the damage done can be devastating and fatal. You'd think that the high possibility of such an outcome would focus the minds of the judiciary into getting a better grip on how they run their courts w.r.t. technical / scientific data.

      2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: Something something pun about Horizon

        "If courts are unable to determine sworn bullshit from sworn fact, you cannot have a fair trial."

        That is the job of the jury. It is the job of the barristers, expert witnesses and the judge to make this as easy as possible for them. Of course, the expert witness lying like a broken watch is not necessarily an aid to the process.

      3. Random Commenter

        Re: Something something pun about Horizon

        Yes, I think the case you refer to was when a woman was told there was no way she was the parent of her own child. I think they wanted to take her child away but it later turned out that she had her "sister's" ovaries. First time I'd ever heard of this condition.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    One advantage of a paper based government office is that it is impervious to ransomware ---

  4. ChoHag Silver badge

    > Tono and his predecessors have promised to bring Japan further into the digital age, but have little to show for their efforts.

    What are you talking about? This is a significant data breach! They're well on their way to a parity with western tech. At this rate thay'll have foreign spies in their infrastructure and half their industrial base held up by ransomware in no time!

    If they work really hard, they'll be able to digitise all their medical records and sell them to a Chinese spy firm by the end of the decade.

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