The Japanese government is investigating messaging app Line following media reports that it let Chinese engineers at a Shanghai affiliate access Japanese users’ data without informing them.
Four engineers at a company in China, who perform system maintenance for Line, were allowed to access servers in Japan from 2018 that had the names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of users, according to local media reports.
Under Japanese privacy regulations, companies have to let users know when their personal data is sent abroad, public broadcaster NHK and other local Japanese media reported.
“We can’t say yet if Line breached regulations or not, and we are conducting an investigation to find out,” a government official responsible for overseeing privacy regulations said.
Line has apologised for causing any concern and for not adequately explaining policies regarding data management to users. No inappropriate access occurred, it added.
Line, which has 186 million users worldwide, has since blocked access to user data at the Chinese affiliate, the company spokesman said.
This month, Line became part of Z Holdings, formerly Yahoo Japan, creating a $30bn (£21bn, €25bn) domestic internet giant. It has expanded its business into cashless payment and recently into telemedicine.
Messages sent via Line can only be read by the sender and receiver as the app encrypts message content end to end.
Z Holdings is controlled by SoftBank Corp through holding company A Holdings, which is jointly owned by SoftBank Corp and South Korea’s Naver Corp, the former operator of Line.
Shares of Z Holdings fell 1.1 per cent to 611 yen, compared with the Tokyo exchange’s TOPIX index which was flat.