A small ceremony was held on February 1 to recognize Tohoku University's participation in Miyagi Prefectural Police's "Cybercrime Prevention Volunteers" programme.
Since 2014, several universities in Miyagi have had student volunteers learn about cybercrime trends and help the prefectural police conduct patrols against illegal and harmful information on the internet. This past year, 15 volunteers have come from Tohoku University.
Among them is Masato Okuyama, a third-year student at the Faculty of Law, who received a special individual award for his extraordinary contributions. "There is a lot of illegal information and activities out there, such as child prostitution, underaged dating and fraud. Even a superficial search on social media sites like Twitter/X would usually uncover something."
Okuyama has been a volunteer for a year and a half. He first heard about the programme through a class. "There was a lecture about cybersecurity and cybercrime, and the volunteer project was introduced there. I wanted to apply what I learnt in class, so the opportunity was very appealing."
There was, of course, some good-natured ribbing from his friends over his plans to volunteer. "My friends jokingly asked if I was also monitoring their tweets, but nobody was seriously concerned. They were actually quite supportive and respectful that I was supporting police work and doing my part to help the community."
Speaking at the ceremony, Miyagi Prefectural Police's Director-general for Cybersecurity Shigeyuki Kozumi thanked Tohoku University and the student volunteers for their help. Executive Vice President for Strategic Planning Takafumi Aoki accepted the certificate on the university's behalf.
"Last year, the student volunteers reported a great deal of information on child prostitution and black market jobs listed in cyberspace, and I assure you that we will investigate every case to see if a crime was committed," Kozumi said. "Even if there is no crime, the police can request that the administrators of websites and servers remove information that is harmful to young people. So the information we receive from you contributes greatly to the cleaning up of cyberspace."
Naoko Udagawa is a professor at the Graduate School of Law and Public Policy, seconded from the National Police Agency of Japan. She teaches a course on volunteering in the areas of safety and security. "I think when people encounter threats on the street, they know how to avoid them. But in cyberspace, many people don't see the danger so they tend to be less careful, especially about their privacy," she said.
"Young people are very comfortable using social media and dating apps, and they share a lot of private information without thinking of the consequences. In one of my classes, I had a police officer demonstrate how easy it is to track your location from the photos that you post online."
She encourages everyone to always be vigilant. "Police cannot make the world safe by themselves. There needs to be a community effort."
Tohoku University has been part of the "Cybercrime Prevention Volunteers" programme since 2022, with 41 students having participated so far.
- Miyagi Prefectural Police: https://www.police.pref.miyagi.jp/cyber/torikumi-r5.html
Professor, Tohoku University Graduate School of Law and Public Policy