Line slammed for violating privacy

Line slammed for violating privacy

Line app has come under criticism after its recent update includes a new feature that shows which Line Official Accounts (OA) users are following as well as users' followers for others to see.

OA is commonly used by brands and businesses to stay connected with Line users.

Dr Nawanan Theera-Ampornpunt, a newly appointed member of the Personal Data Protection Committee, told the Bangkok Post Line's latest update conflicts with the "privacy by design" principle.

Dr Nawanan was appointed an honorary member of the 17-member committee at Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

Line did not inform users of the app or update them about new features, he said, noting the app was updated several days ago.

If this affects only small groups, that would not be a major issue, but Line has a massive user base, particularly in Thailand, where 45 million users have access and the app is commonly used for communication in daily life, said Dr Nawanan.

"Whether to disclose that data should be the right of the user," he said. "This is not the developer's business."

Line should turn off this feature by default to ensure privacy protection and let users decide whether they want to opt in, said Dr Nawanan.

"This is outrageous," he said. "That is why I chose the word 'condemn' in my Facebook comments about Line's move as it is a global firm that should have been aware of personal data protection. Design and development that involves personal data must take into account user privacy and ensure it as a central focus."

Users must also be informed about changes that affect their privacy.

When queried whether Line would continue to ignore the issue, as most parts of the Personal Data Protection Act have yet to be fully implemented, Dr Nawanan responded: "Good to know that."

The act was published in the Royal Gazette in May 2019, but the government on Tuesday agreed to postpone most parts of the legislation, which was earlier due to take effect next week, by another year.

To manually turn off the feature, users are recommended to go to the app's settings, profile, and tick out the "Show follow info" box.

Line Thailand issued a statement saying this feature would make it easier for users to check the number and OA names, along with other Line users that he or she follows. It lets others see users' followed accounts to "suggest these accounts to others with shared interests".

"Only the number and names of the Line Official Accounts as well as names of other Line users followed by each user are shown, " said Line.

Line apologised for the delayed communication and explanation for the "following" feature.

"Line Thailand takes all the blame and aims to solve this matter as quickly as possible," it indicated.


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