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Sloppy data compliance sees Japanese government cut out its own use of LINE messaging app

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Less than a year after selecting the messaging app LINE as its preferred app COVID-era telemedicine, Japan has decided the app is too risky for government use over fears it leaks data.

The nation's government last week announced it would investigate reports of compromised data. A few days later, Japan’s Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda ordered local administrations to stop using the app.

Japanese privacy regulations require companies to inform users of personal data exports. LINE’s privacy policy detailed data transfer to foreign countries but failed to describe any access by offshore affiliates.

In 2018, four engineers that perform system maintenance in China were given access to LINE’s Japanese servers. Furthermore, LINE outsourced monitoring of profile screen and bulletin board contents that was further subcontracted to a Chinese company. Reports allege detection of 32 connections from Japanese servers from inside China.

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Line addressed the matter with a statement and removed the foreign affiliate’s data access. The app company denied any unauthorized access or information leakage and apologized for any inconvenience and worry experienced by users. It has since issued another statement stating it would establish a special committee to verify and evaluate global data governance.

Eighty-six million of LINE’s 186 million total users live in Japan. The company was purchased earlier this month by Z Holdings, formerly Yahoo! Japan and an affiliate of SoftBank Group. The acquisition was driven by a desire to create an app that merges messaging, e-commerce, and other services to allow Z Holdings to better compete with the likes of With LINE now on the nose in Japan, those ambitions may be harder to realise.®

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