Though data collection and usage is becoming more important every day, there remains little transparency when it comes to its collection and use. This was one of the driving forces behind creating the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner’s Office (“PCPD”). Their primary mission is enforcing data protection laws such as the Personal Data Protection Ordinance (“PDPO”). Under this statute are set out the rights and responsibilities of individuals using personal information as well as six core data protection principles that should be respected at all times.
PDPO was initially implemented in 1996 and has undergone considerable amendment since, including amendments made specifically to address doxxing in 2021. Furthermore, it should be noted that the PDPO extends beyond online activities to cover offline data collection and use.
An individual’s personal details may be captured and recorded offline systems and used for direct marketing activities; in such instances, prior to initiating any direct marketing activities. Furthermore, emergency data access requests allow police and fire services to gain access to individuals’ records in case of emergencies; such an approach requires their express permission and the person must give informed consent prior to any emergency data access request being implemented.
As well as complying with statutory provisions of PDPO, PCPD has issued Guidance Notes on data access requests which provide additional guidance to data users. These Guidance Notes strongly advise data users against rejecting requests based on technical grounds; AMI:HK may make this impossible sometimes but these Guidance Notes strongly urge compliance nonetheless.
One of the key challenges when interpreting the PDPO is understanding its definition of personal data. While most data privacy laws include some extraterritorial application, this is not true of the PDPO; to fall under its jurisdiction a person must conduct operations controlling collection, holding, processing or use of personal data within Hong Kong itself and not whether such personal data identifies an identifiable natural person but whether such personal data can identify someone.
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