A government commission on July 29 issued a cease-and-desist order to the operators of two websites that have listed the names of individuals who have declared personal bankruptcy.

It was the first cease-and-desist order by the Personal Information Protection Commission (PPC) since its founding in 2016.

The site operators had apparently obtained the personal information, such as names and addresses, from a government gazette and posted it online for easy access.

The PPC learned about these two websites in October 2019. The websites’ server is located abroad, and the identities of the operators remain unknown, the PPC said.

A PPC warning to the operators in April was ignored.

The personal information of several tens of thousands of people has been made available on these websites.

Since 2019, several hundred people have contacted the PPC and said they were denied employment and other business opportunities because their personal bankruptcy history was exposed by these sites.

If the operators do not follow the cease-and-desist order by Aug. 27, they will face criminal prosecution.

The PPC suspects the site operators violated the Protection of Personal Information Law, which requires an individual’s permission before his or her personal information can be provided to a third party.

The cease-and-desist order is also intended to warn companies and organizations to carefully handle personal information that public offices make available.

Information about individuals who declare personal bankruptcy is published in a government gazette with the intention of protecting creditors.

The operators apparently digitized that information and posted it on their websites.

“By compiling a database, the operators made searching for such information easy and raised the risk that individual rights would be violated,” the PPC said.

Previously, an online “map” with the names of individuals who declared personal bankruptcy became available to the public.

After a word from the PPC in March 2019, the operator closed the site.

“For an individual who declares bankruptcy, being listed in a government gazette and being easily searched and found on the internet are completely different in terms of impact,” said Yoichiro Itakura, a lawyer who specializes in personal information.

The PPC has asked Google and other internet search engines not to display these two websites in search results.