News: Japan to probe Line let after reports it let Chinese engineers access user data.
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese government announced on Wednesday that it would investigate SoftBank Corp’s Z Holdings Corp. messaging app Line after Japanese media reported that Chinese engineers at a subsidiary in Shanghai were able to access Japanese user data without to inform them about it.
According to Japanese data protection regulations, companies must notify users when their personal information is being sent overseas. The public broadcaster NHK and other local media reported earlier.
“We can’t tell yet if Line has violated the regulations or not, and we’re conducting an investigation to find out,” a government official in charge of overseeing privacy regulations told Reuters. If Line is found to have acted improperly, the Cabinet Office can instruct it to make improvements, he added.
“There was nothing that would have violated legal or regulatory limits,” said a spokesman for Line. We will continue to respond to laws and regulations in all countries including Japan. “
In a statement later posted on its website, the company apologized for raising concerns and failing to adequately explain its data management policies to users. Inappropriate access has not occurred, it added.
Four engineers from a company in China who perform system maintenance for Line were allowed to access servers in Japan from 2018, which contained the names, telephone numbers and email addresses of the users, local media said.
The reports come as Japan tightens the laws and regulations governing the use and storage of personal information by Internet companies.
Line, with 186 million users worldwide – almost half of them in Japan – has since blocked access to user data at the Chinese subsidiary, the company spokesman said.
Line became part of Z Holdings, formerly Yahoo Japan, earlier this month, creating a $ 30 billion domestic Internet heavyweight to compete against local and US competitors.
Messages sent via Line can only be read by the sender and recipient, as the app, like other messaging apps, continuously encrypts the message content.
Z Holdings is controlled by SoftBank Corp through Holding A Holdings, which is jointly owned by SoftBank Corp and the South Korean Naver Corp, the former operator of Line.
Z Holdings, which plans to invest 500 billion yen ($ 4.58 billion) in technology over the next five years, announced the merger of the line last year but had to abandon the move due to the COVID-19 pandemic October move.
Line has expanded its business to include cashless payments and, more recently, telemedicine.
Shares in Z Holdings, which also control fashion retailer Zozo Inc and office supply company Askul Corp, fell 1.1% to 611 yen, compared to the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s TOPIX index, which was unchanged.
($ 1 = 109,1500 yen)
Reporting by Tim Kelly, Takashi Umekawa, and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Christopher Cushing and Simon Cameron-Moore
Original Source © Reuters