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Mixi and private information October 13, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Internet, Japan.
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Mixi shares have taken a battering since last week, currently trading at JPY1.9M down around JPY1M since the beginning of last week.

The main reason for the drop is attributed to Mixi being involved in an embarrassing incident of private photos being found on the internet due to user using P2P file sharing software which was compromised by a computer virus. The content of said user’s PC was made available through the P2P network, and this included mail records and photos of this user and his girlfriend (without any clothes on and with legs wide open, apparently). Someone apparently went through the mail data and determined the names of both the compromised user and his girlfriend, and then went onto Mixi and did a search for both, found users who matched the descriptions of both.

All this information found its way onto 2ch, the notorious free-for-all BBS, and apparently someone posted the information onto various communities in Mixi related to the two individuals as well.

The 2ch crowd have done a through job of dredging up personal details of the involved parties, and the whole thing has become a nightmare for the couple.

The media picked this up, and Mixi updated its FAQ regarding posting of profile information which might identify users.
The whole thing has become such a big deal on the internet partly because the girlfriend is apparently pretty and has a innocent, well brought up look about her.

I guess Mixi is seen as guilty by association, and further there is a potential financial impact in that if many more users set up their profiles to have no real information associated with them (ie if we all put our age as 99 and sex as male, and a made up name) it will make targeted advertising more difficult and impact advertising revenues, and also make it more difficult for users to search for their friends which may impact the initial adoption by new users (I don’t think many users search for their friends apart from when they first join).

The media is using this as another example of the dangers of posting identifying data on the internet, and this will no doubt reinforce the anonymous nature of the Japanese internet.

The original compromising information was not released via Mixi, but the episode illustrates how various fragments of a person’s identity can be pieced together much more easily and with much greater impact due to the nature of the internet.

I personally feel that this should not be used as an excuse to default to anonymous usage of the internet. The internet has the power to be more than an anonymous and irresponsible free-far-all a la 2ch, and real value is being created by those of us who use the tools available to us with care. That isn’t to say that people don’t have the right to anonymity on the internet or elsewhere, of course.

I do not think of my on-line persona as being detached from my off-line persona, and am registered on Mixi with my real name and plenty of identifying information for people who might want to find me. I do take care with publishing information about others who might not want their information on the internet, and I certainly don’t have compromising pictures of myself or others on the hard drive of any networked PC….

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Comments»

1. Durf - October 13, 2006

Two people post their personal information to Mixi, and then leak their embarrassing photos through their own ineptitude at securing their machines, and users of a completely different website go crazy connecting all the dots, and somehow Mixi is to blame.

Does this mean Japan is following America’s “video games and violence” lead, blaming companies for the acts of unrelated individuals? Or is it going the Korean “dog poop girl” route?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_poop_girl

2. nagaijin - October 13, 2006

I’m sure 98% of Japanese have no idea what Mixi is.

3. Ben Miller - October 13, 2006

Sometimes I tag my blog entries with “mixi” and sometimes with “identity.” Lately I have been seeing hits from people using Google (mainly) to search for “mixi identity.” I didn’t understand why until I read your post. Thanks for helping me (us?) see through the kanji wall.

4. fukumimi - October 14, 2006

Nagaijin>

With well over 5 million registered accounts (yes, there are people who have multiple accounts in violation of the ULA, but more than 70% of accounts are accessed at least once every 3 days, so it is probable that most of the accounts (let’s say 80%?) are legitimate users) and the vast majority being located in Japan, I think it is safe to say that several million Japanese have accounts on Mixi.

Further, Mixi has had continued major exposure in the mainstream media over the last few months, so I would think that many people who don’t have a Mixi account are aware of its presence and have a vague idea of what it is.

It certainly is mainstream within the internet user community, it is the 2nd most accessed site in Japan. It certainly isn’t just a site for teenagers and twentysomethings either. The oldest person in my direct network is 60 years old, and uses Mixi as frequently as any of my other connections.

It would be interesting to see a internet brand recognition survey, Yahoo Japan would rank #1 without a doubt, and I suspect Mixi might even edge Google for 2nd. 2ch would probably rank somewhere in the top 5?

5. Chris_B - October 17, 2006

As Durf rightly pointed out, the problem here is a lack of personal responsability or just flat out ignorance on the part of the user in question. Then again, to be honest, the concept of personal responsability is pretty much lacking in contemporary Japan. Too bad for mixi if they get caught in the crossfire.

6. fukumimi - October 17, 2006

Chris,

The tragicomic thing is, the user whose PC was compromised is an employee of a consumer electronics company, an industry which you would think would have employees who had a better than average idea of PC security issues.

Personal responsibility is indeed a concept which is in rapid decline in modern Japan, although I suspect the same can be said for many societies.

There appears to have been a shift from a more group oriented social philosophy to one that promotes individualism, as if these concepts were mutually exclusive, when in fact these concepts should go hand in hand in an enlightened society. It seems many seem to have conveniently forgotten that rights and responsibilities are opposite sides of the same coin, and at the same time have left their empathic skills by the wayside, in the selfish dash to stake their claim to all which they apparently feel they are entitled.

However, in this case, I think the basic cause was just plain stupidity.

What I do find distasteful is the 2ch mob phenomenon. From the vitriolic, banal and infantile (in no particular order) “discourse” which appears to be the norm on 2ch which in many cases descends to pointless personal attacks and argument by numbers, all behind the convenient veil of anonymity, I think it is pretty safe to assume that the average profile of the unsavoury 2ch regular is a loser in real-life who needs an anonymous venue to express his pent up anger at the apparent injustices served by society on him by disparaging others and engaging in infantile mob behaviour.

There definitely seems to be a 2ch vs Mixi tension dynamic brewing, the two cultures being so different, and with what I feel are 2ch hardcore regulars seeing Mixi as encroaching on “their” internet, bringing the “unwashed masses” onto “their” internet, and simultaneously perhaps feeling a sense of envy at the (admittedly often unjustified) positive media exposure that Mixi has garnered of late. Mixi has been portrayed as a safe, civil environment on the internet, and 2ch has been portrayed as the anarchic and vitriolic counterpoint in some of these accounts. I’m guessing 2ch regulars were just waiting for a chance to mob Mixi, and this incident gave them exactly that.

7. nagaijin - October 19, 2006

So about 4 million users? Sorry, I take back what I said: 97.5% of Japanese have no idea what Mixi is!
Interesting hearing about the 2chan/Mixi feud, though.

8. fukumimi - October 20, 2006

Does a person have to be a user to be aware of what Mixi is? I don’t think that is necessarily the case. Mixi has been profiled in the business media extensively, so many of the readers and viewers of same would probably be aware of Mixi and what it is about. I am assuming that the bulk of middle aged Japanese salarymen don’t have a Mixi account or know anyone who might send them an invite.

9. nagaijin - October 20, 2006

Hey, Fukumimi, it’s Friday night in Japan. Lighten up already!

10. fukumimi - October 20, 2006

I was just trying to make the point that Mixi is as mainstream as any internet only brand in Japan could ever hope to be 🙂

11. curious_about_mixi - November 14, 2006

I’ve been looking for details on the incident involving the compromising photos, but no mainstream newspapers seem to have articles. Have there been any press releases/articles on the matter? I’ve also heard mixi is now deleting users if they show a sign of being troublesome. Where can I find more information?


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