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Personal info commission to mull legal action against Line

  • March 20, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 2:09 a.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, March 19 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s Personal Information Protection Commission said Friday that it will consider legal action against messaging app provider Line Corp., whose user data were left accessible at a Chinese affiliate.

The government commission said it has demanded that Line and its parent, Z Holdings Corp. <4689>, submit reports on the issue under the personal information protection law.

The two companies were told to report details of their business activities, including contractors abroad, the scope of personal information data in Japan accessible at overseas companies and log data. The deadline is Tuesday.

The companies may be fined up to 500,000 yen if they submit false reports. Violations of the law would result in recommendations or orders for necessary measures to remedy the situation.

In addition, the communications ministry demanded that Line submit a report on the issue, including how the personal information was treated, by April 19 under the telecommunications business law.

Based on the report, the ministry will determine whether administrative punishment or guidance is necessary.

The personal information protection law obliges companies to gain users’ consent when they need to transfer their personal information to a foreign country.

The terms of service of the Line app say the operator may transfer users’ information to a third country without a law to protect personal data. But the names of such countries are not mentioned.

Meanwhile, the government began investigating the use of the messaging app among its ministries and agencies.

Line is used in various administrative services. The government plans to take steps to ensure information security, such as the suspension of services using the messaging app, until the problem is resolved.

“We are again checking the usage of Line (in the government),” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the Budget Committee of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of parliament, on Friday.

At a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said that the government is using Line for purposes other than handling secret information.

“We are planning to suspend usage until the concerns are dispelled,” Kato said of the situation at the Cabinet Secretariat.

The communications ministry has halted receiving questions and opinions through Line. It also urged municipalities to report their respective usage of the app by March 26.

Speaking to the press after a cabinet meeting Friday, several cabinet ministers said they were personally using the messaging app.

Digital transformation minister Takuya Hirai said he “will not stop using it personally,” while Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said he is “considering using another app.”

Some local governments, including Chiba Prefecture and the city of Osaka, said Friday that they have stopped using their Line accounts utilized to provide administrative services and disseminate information.

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