Man loses flash drive with personal data of whole city after drinking after work in Japan

Drinks after work probably sounded like a good idea – but for a worker in Japan the hangover is likely to last for some time.

The anonymous worker lost a USB drive containing the personal details of every resident of the city of Amagasaki, northwest of Osaka, after going out for a drink this week, according to a statement from the city government.

State broadcaster NHK reported that the worker, a man in his 40s, fell asleep on the streets after drinking alcohol in a restaurant. When he woke up, his bag containing the USB key was gone.

A man lost a USB flash drive containing the personal data of every citizen in the city of Amagasaki, Japan, after a few drinks after work. (Takuya Yoshino/AP)

The man works for a company responsible for providing benefits to tax-exempt households, according to the city government statement.

On Tuesday, he went to the information center of the municipal administration and transferred the data of the inhabitants to a USB key. The data included the names, dates of birth and addresses of 465,177 people, the statement said – the entire population of the city.

The USB drive also contained sensitive information, including tax details, names and bank account numbers, and information about households receiving public assistance such as childcare costs.

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On Wednesday, the employee looked for the USB drive but could not find it, so he filed a lost property complaint with the police, according to the government statement. Later that afternoon, the company notified city officials of the loss.

The flash drive is encrypted and no data leaks have been confirmed yet, authorities said in the statement.

She added that although the employee was authorized to access the data, he was not authorized to transfer it to a separate electronic device. The statement also criticized the employee for not erasing the data from the USB drive after completing his work at the city office and for transporting it personally instead of using a safer mode of transportation.

Authorities held a news conference Thursday, with the city’s mayor and other officials bowing to apologize to residents.

The city will make payments to eligible households without delay and provide more information about the case as the investigation continues, the official statement said – which ended with a specific reminder to government employees to obtain permission before removing USB drives from city offices.

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