Messenger app operator Line Corp. revealed Monday that it has provided private information about its users to authorities both in and outside Japan as part of criminal investigations.

In a document titled Line Transparency Report, covering July to December last year, the company said the information provided on 1,268 registered accounts included users’ phone numbers, email addresses and text chat histories.

“We believe the privacy of the users should be strictly protected, and generally, user information will not be shared with third parties without securing permission first. However, as an exception, consideration will be given to sharing such information with government agencies involved in criminal investigations,” the report said.

Of the 1,719 requests from investigative authorities, Line responded to 997, or 58 percent. In some cases, one request included two or more accounts, the company said. Eighty-seven percent of the requests came from within Japan.

Other countries and territories that have made requests include Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States. Line said it will respond to requests from overseas based on current laws and mutual assistance treaties, including the Law for International Assistance in Investigation.

In the report, Line said it would disclose private information based on the Criminal Procedure Code and the Penal Code if a warrant was issued for the user, as part of a criminal investigation, or when either a bombing or suicide is believed to be imminent.

“We will not cooperate in acts that violate the human rights of users including wiretapping or censorship conducted by government agencies,” the report said.

Line is not the only company in Japan that provides private user information to investigative authorities when requested. NTT Docomo Inc. and KDDI Corp. also notify their users they will do so if it is deemed necessary. However, according to a Line spokeswoman, the Line Transparency Report is the first of its kind to be made public by a Japanese telecommunications company.

“Users are concerned about how their private information is being protected, and we published (the document) to fulfill our accountability,” said the spokeswoman.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.