YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) -- Eighteen hard disk drives discarded by the Kanagawa prefectural government that contained the personal information of an unspecified number of individuals, have been sold in an internet auction, local government officials said Friday.
The hard drives were sold online by an employee of a Tokyo-based information equipment recycling company, which was commissioned to scrap them, with nine of them retrieved by the prefecture, but nine others remain unaccounted for.
The situation first came to light after a man who bought nine of them contacted the local government. The prefecture, neighboring Tokyo, is now asking that anyone who may have unwittingly come into possession of the data, not disclose any of the information.
The information equipment company has been consulting with police and may file a criminal complaint against the employee, according to the prefecture.
The size of data in the retrieved devices totals 27 terabytes. The data included individuals' names, addresses, tax payment records for automobiles, notification of tax investigation with names of companies, as well as records of the prefectures' operations.
The hard drives had been used for data sharing servers at the prefectural government office and were replaced with new ones in the spring.
The prefectural government had deleted the data, but the successful bidder of the hard drives was able to restore them by using special software. The government is trying to locate the remaining nine hard drives, which were also sold online from July to August.
The data servers have been leased from Fujitsu Leasing Co., which commissioned Broadlink Co. to scrap the replaced hard drives. A male employee has admitted to selling them in an auction, saying, "I was not aware that they were used at the Kanagawa prefectural office," according to the prefecture.
A prefectural government official said, "It is extremely regrettable. We would like to review our contract with Fujitsu Leasing so that data in hard drives will be deleted through physical destruction."
Fujitsu Leasing said it was not able to make any comments on the matter.
Defense Minister Taro Kono told a press conference on Friday that the ministry signed a contract worth about 400,000 yen ($3,700) with Broadlink in fiscal 2018.
The ministry is trying to figure out whether there was any data breach as well as details of the contract.