Current concerns (11): Teachers slip up via Google Map use, school stabbing & cannabis crimes

Student data slip out via Google Maps The Yomiuri Shimbun

Personal information on about 980 students from 37 schools has been mistakenly disclosed to the public by teachers using the Google Maps Web site, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun study.

Primary, middle and high school teachers using the site to locate their students’ homes easily and for other record-keeping purposes have been inputting the names, addresses and other pieces of personal information of students on the free online map search site. In some cases, however, they have mistakenly made the information accessible to the general public.

The Yomiuri study also found that some of the data in question has remained in the public domain even after teachers tried to delete it.

Communicating through the prefectural boards of education, the Education, Science and Technology Ministry has instructed schools and other educational institutions nationwide to ensure that students’ personal information is appropriately handled.

Inappropriate disclosure of students’ information on Google Maps has been discovered in 21 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Aomori, Chiba, Saitama, Aichi, Osaka and Miyazaki.

Information about 34 students in three kindergartens, 420 students in 15 primary schools, 390 students in 15 middle schools and 133 students in four high schools is known to have been disclosed in this way.

The problem relates to usage of the My Maps function of the site operated by Google, a major Internet portal, which started the service in April last year. By inputting an address on the site, users can search for a location via an online map. Users can also register landmarks, the names of specific locations, addresses or other information on the Internet site for personal use.

The public disclosure problem stems from Google Maps’ default settings. Users of the service tend to assume that information entered is available only to themselves as the site promotes itself as an exclusive map for individual users. But the default setting allows access to all Internet users and this remains the case as long as the user does not change the setting to limited access.

Potential information leakage has raised concerns, especially over teachers’ compiling of maps for visiting students’ homes. Some of the disclosed map data reveals students’ names, addresses and telephone numbers.

“In many cases, teachers visit students’ homes at the beginning of the school year,” a 52-year-old vice principal of a middle school in Chiba Prefecture said. “For teachers unfamiliar with local geography, it can be a hard job tracking down each student’s home on foot. So Google Maps is a convenient tool for finding houses and creating lists of locations just by inputting the relevant addresses.”

“With the My Maps function, I can quickly find the shortest route for making visits,” a school teacher said.

Though users should be able to delete the registered data by clicking a button on the site, there have been many complaints that information remains accessible even after the delete button has been clicked.

A teacher at a municipal middle school in Seto, Aichi Prefecture, deleted the names, addresses and other data of about 15 students that had been accessible by the general public from his personal online map. But on Friday, some of the data was still accessible.

A teacher at a primary school in Miyazaki, deleted such data on Nov. 5, but discovered that the information was still on the online map several days later.

The school’s vice principal said: “Teachers have used Google Maps in class. But as a service that comes free of charge, it comes with risks.”

According to Google Inc.’s public relations department, information registered by users on their My Maps sites is copied and stored on two or more servers, and thus it is possible that a record of the data might remain for a while even after a user has “deleted” it.

“We’ll delete data immediately if users ask us to,” a Google spokesman said.

Similar problems relating to Google Maps have also occurred at companies and hospitals.

Sega Corp., an Ota Ward, Tokyo-based major video game maker, found that personal information on 115 applicants for part-time jobs at the company had been accessible to the public via the site.

A hospital in Nagoya found that the names, addresses, telephone numbers and other pieces of personal information about patients receiving artificial dialysis and 80 users of its day care center for the elderly had been accessible via the site.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry’s Fixed Property Tax Division compiled data on the home addresses of about 30 officials for emergency use on the site, and this list too was accessible by the general public.

(Nov. 18, 2008)

Kagawa Pref. boy stabs classmate with scissors The Yomiuri Shimbun

TAKAMATSU–An 11-year-old boy stabbed a classmate in the back with a pair of craft scissors at a municipal primary school in Marugame, Kagawa Prefecture, leaving his victim seriously wounded, according to the police.

Officers from Marugame Police Station took the young assailant into custody and reported him to a prefectural children’s counseling center in the city. The center was to temporarily place the boy under its protection and question him about his motive and other details.

The boy’s sixth-grade homeroom teacher distributed printouts to students at about 3:40 p.m. Monday during a classroom period after lessons had finished, according to the city’s board of education. The printouts contained advice for students, such as: “Every third Sunday should be a day without TV or video games.”

(Nov. 19, 2008)

Universities keen to tackle cannabis problem (Nov.13)  Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuichiro Nakamura, Shunichi Seki and Hiroaki Mori / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff

The arrest last month of two Keio University students on suspicion of violating the Cannabis Control Law is the latest in a recent spate of such cases involving young people studying at higher education institutions.

The law bans the possession, cultivation, and trading of cannabis, also known as hemp, by persons who are not licensed to handle such goods for textile use.

To combat the issue, Keio University has launched a fact-finding survey and held discussions on countermeasures. A panel set up to tackle drug-related problems and comprising about 50 professors met at the university’s Mita campus in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Nov. 4. The meeting, which lasted about four hours, adopted six countermeasures after much hot debate.

The measures include holding a seminar on the prevention of drug abuse, establishing a counseling center for students who habitually abuse drugs, and sending a letter from the president to all the university’s students.

“We know these are far from fundamental solutions,” said one participant, looking fatigued after the long discussions.

Opinions heard during the meeting included: “There’s a limit to how much the issue can be resolved if we leave matters entirely in the hands of the students. The university needs to tackle the issue on its own initiative,” and “Is it advisable for university authorities to deny students the right to deal with this issue themselves?”

The two Keio University students–Yujiro Nakamura, 20, a freshman at the Faculty of Economics, and Kotaro Uchida, 21, a sophomore at the Faculty of Business and Commerce–were arrested by the Kanagawa prefectural police last month. Nakamura was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for three years, while Uchida is still on trial.

Nakamura purchased cannabis from Uchida on the university’s Hiyoshi campus in Kohoku Ward, Yokohama, while Uchida told investigators he bought cannabis from another Keio University student, according to investigative sources. This has given rise to speculation that cannabis abuse is rife at the university.

Since April 2003, a total of six undergraduate and postgraduate students have been arrested over cannabis abuse. But the university authorities did not treat these cases seriously.

However, with last month’s arrests, the university began to realize the extent of the problem and launched a probe into the latest case. But its fact-finding survey has made little progress, as reflected by the fact that the university authorities were not able to contact Nakamura until Thursday, more than one week after he was released from detention.

Taro Nishimura, one of the university’s standing executive committee members, expressed his deep concern, saying, “If the situation goes unchecked, our university may end up becoming a place where illicit drug deals are conducted by organized groups, as at U.S. universities.”

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey of 24 universities in the Kanto and Kansai regions, 14 universities–including those at which no students have been arrested over drugs–said they thought “cannabis abuse had been spreading among students.” As for relevant reasons, Waseda University said, “Opportunities for students to access drugs during overseas trips have been increasing”; Tokai University said, “Students have a misconception that drugs are cool”; and Chuo University said, “It has become easier to obtain drugs via the Internet.”

But all the surveyed universities appear to be desperate to find effective countermeasures.

Kansai University in May established a local area network (LAN) through which students and university staffers are able to anonymously send information on drug abuse. No information has been provided in the past six months, a university official said.

Sophia University–at which four students have been arrested over drug abuse in the past five years–has organized lecture meetings and distributed leaflets on the prevention of drug abuse. In the wake of the incident involving the Keio University students, Sophia University this month posted an Internet message saying the university would severely punish students if they were found to be involved in the use of illicit drugs such as cannabis.

Sophia also is considering adopting a policy of patrolling inconspicuous locations on the campus at night.

Five students at Hosei University were arrested from June to September on suspicion of violating the Cannabis Control Law, but the university authorities have yet to identify them as the students are all minors and have not independently reported the matter to the university.

The Metropolitan Police Department refused to answer a request from the university to identify the five students. A frustrated university spokesman said, “Under such circumstances, we’ve no way of taking effective action.”

Hosei University gathered about 300 students at its Ichigaya campus in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Friday to lecture them on drug abuse and its prevention. A 20-year-old student of the Faculty of Law, who consented to be interviewed after the meeting, said, “To be honest, I’m not sure whether I’d be able to decline if a close friend offered me drugs.” He urged the university authorities to educate students on the dangers of cannabis use.


Most cannabis law violators young
Police arrested or detained 2,271 people across the country last year on suspicion of violating the Cannabis Control Law. Of these, 1,570 were in their teens and 20s. This figure is the largest of the past five years, accounting for 69.2 percent of the total and representing an increase of 2.4 percentage points from the previous year.

These statistics underline the fact that cannabis use has been spreading among young people.

The National Police Agency believes that raves, which recently have been gaining popularity among young people, provide a new area for the spread of cannabis.

At a rave held in Minakamimachi, northern Gunma Prefecture, in August, 15 people were arrested for possessing cannabis. Six others were arrested for the same reason at raves held in Tsumagoimura, Gunma Prefecture, and in Seki, Gifu Prefecture.

A female senior at Doshisha University, who was indicted for violating the Cannabis Control Law on Oct. 8, reportedly told police she had used cannabis at a rave.

Raves are usually held outdoors, at locations such as camping sites, and are held through the night until early morning. Participants dance to music, and some raves can attract as many as 1,000 people.

The agency points out that drug dealers often seek out new customers at raves.

(Nov. 13, 2008)

Many library books returned damaged (Nov.14) Yomiuri Shimbun

Many books borrowed from public libraries are being returned with signs of having been handled roughly.

Some books have been stained with round marks, apparently after being used as coasters for drinks or dishes, while others have come back with animal bite marks. Other books have been subject to nasty pranks, including the spoiling of detective novel endings by revealing the criminal’s name at the beginning of the book.

Because many people use libraries, it is difficult to identify the perpetrators. Even if the culprits are asked to pay compensation, few respond.

At a public library in a Tokyo ward, more than 1,000 damaged books could not be returned to the shelves in the last fiscal year. The books were returned by borrowers with pages cut out or warped by moisture. Such cases have been increasing in recent years. A library worker said sadly that staff members could only remove such damaged books from the shelves.

At a public library in the northern Kanto area, a book was returned with half-eaten chocolate stuck between the pages.

“I found many books with food and juice stains, probably because people read the books while eating and drinking,” a librarian there said. “Kids used to read books after they washed their hands, but I seldom see them take such precautions nowadays.”

About six months ago, a staff member at a public library in the Kinki district found a picture book that had been returned with nearly all the pages covered in crayon scribbles. When a library worker brought the damage to the attention of the woman who returned the book, the borrower said, “this [damage] should be permissible since we are paying taxes,” the staff member said.

At a public library in the Tohoku region, a staff member found a detective novel with red lines drawn under the criminal’s name, letting new readers know who the culprit is before they finish the book.

“It’s such bad behavior to deprive readers of the pleasure of reading a detective novel,” a librarian fumed.

Eleven public libraries in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, started to keep borrowers’ contact information in January so they can trace users when damage is found in returned books. They contacted 54 users who had returned damaged books by the end of September.

Of the 54, only four admitted responsibility and paid for the damaged property. Many of those borrowers claimed the damage had been done before they borrowed the books, or said they did not remember if they had damaged the books.

One user reportedly got angry just for being contacted by a library staff member, saying, “I’m being treated like a criminal.”

“It’s difficult to identify people who damage books and library staff can’t pursue them too aggressively,” said Kaname Matsuoka, secretary general of the Japan Library Association. “Users should understand that the convenience of libraries depends on relying on users to treat borrowed books carefully.”

(Nov. 14, 2008)

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