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Line shuts off access from China

  • March 23, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 10:40 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, March 23 (Jiji Press)–Japanese messaging app provider Line Corp. said Tuesday it has shut off access from China, following the revelation that personal information on its users had been exposed to technicians at a Chinese subsidiary.


All dialogue data between Line users will be transferred to Japan, CEO Takeshi Idezawa told a press conference.


Line aims to regain public trust in its operations by showing its commitment to ensure data protection and security, at a time when the central and local governments in Japan have been suspending use of the app.


Idezawa said Line has “completely” shut off access from China to the personal information of users in Japan. The company has terminated the development, maintenance and operation of its dialogue system in China, he said.


Since Line was established as a Japanese subsidiary of South Korea’s NHN Corp., now called Naver Corp., image data posted on the messaging app and payment data using its Line Pay service are also being kept in South Korea.


The CEO said Line will transfer all data to Japan between June and September, meaning that all data of the Japanese central and local governments will be managed domestically.


He offered an apology, saying that the company was not aware of changes in the business environment, such as growing concerns over China’s information control. “We lacked care for our users,” Idezawa said.


Four engineers at the Chinese subsidiary were able to see the users’ personal information stored in Japan between August 2018 and last month.


The messaging app is increasingly popular in Japan and has been used in various administrative services. After the revelations of the exposure, the internal affairs ministry stopped providing information via Line.


The government’s Personal Information Protection Commission and other authorities in Japan have demanded that Line submit reports on the issue.


Japan’s personal information protection law obliges companies to gain users’ consent when transferring their personal information overseas. Although Line’s data were not transferred overseas, the Chinese unit was given access to the data without users being properly informed.


“Line has become an item of the information infrastructure of digital society,” Joji Shishido, professor at the University of Tokyo, said at the first meeting of an independent investigative committee set up by Line parent Z Holdings Corp. <4689>.


The company “needs to take action to gain a higher level of public trust in addition to complying with Japanese rules,” said Shishido, head of the committee.

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