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Japan Seizes Google User Records

November 9, 2010

According to recent news reports, Japanese prosecutors seized user records from Google on Tuesday for an investigation into the leak of a video on YouTube showing a tense maritime incident that sparked controversy with China.

Public broadcaster NHK and other Japanese media said the move came after the government confirmed the authenticity of the firm showing a Chinese fishing trawler colliding with two Japanese coastguard vessels in disputed waters.

The footage, which was taken by Japanese coastguard in early September, took place in the East China Sea and was not released to the public for fear of inflaming the already bitter dispute with China, but it was uploaded on YouTube on Friday.

The coastguard brought a criminal complaint in Tokyo on Monday against an unknown suspect, citing breaches of the national public service act and other laws.

NHK said on Tuesday that prosecutors will analyze the record of YouTube users’ IP addresses, which should enable them to identify and locate the computer used to upload the controversial footage.

Japan’s arrest of the Chinese trawler captain brought on protests from Beijing that continued after Japan released him, sending relations plunging to their lowest point in years.

Google said in a statement that it would not comment on the media reports.

However, a Google Japan spokesman said in an email to AFP:  “We follow the law like any other company and comply with valid legal process. When we receive a subpoena or court order, we check to see if it meets both the letter and spirit of the law before complying.”

The Jiji Press news agency said that authorities are scrambling to gather information on who uploaded the video clip on YouTube, requesting security footage and customers’ lists at Internet cafes on southern Okinawa.

Jiji said that investigators suspect the person who leaked the video might have used a computer at an Internet cafe because the data was posted on YouTube at night.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized in parliament on Monday, admitting that the government acted “sloppy” in keeping the video secure.

The anonymous leak follows the illicit publication online only days ago of classified anti-terrorism documents that sparked criticism as Japan prepares to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

The video came as Asia’s two biggest economies are attempting to repair a broken relationship after their prime ministers, Kan and Wen Jiabao, failed at two recent summits to hold formal bilateral talks.

The video shows the collision near a chain of islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China.

Japan’s coastguard said in statement that the video on the Internet was “almost identical” to the footage its officers edited and submitted to prosecutors.

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