Searches mean data may live on in cyberspace
The names, ID numbers and addresses of 20,000 people who have made complaints against police since 1996 could remain on the internet indefinitely.
The interest aroused in the leak of the Independent Police Complaints Council's (IPCC) confidential database has led media outlets, complainants and the public to search for the information online.
IPCC member Lo Wing-lok yesterday urged people not to search the Web for the information, saying this could make it impossible to ever remove the data.
'[I would advise] the public, members of the press and anyone interested in this matter to try to refrain from searching for this particular file on the internet,' he said.
'The more you search, the more copies will be left on the internet. Then that information will never be deleted.'
Lee Chan-hee, associate professor of computer science at City University, agreed that once it was widely accessed over the internet, it would be stored in the cache of various servers.
'That will make it difficult to completely wipe out,' he said.
Even if deleted from Google's cached files, people who have accessed the webpage will still have the data on their servers.
IPCC chairman Ronny Wong Fook-hum warned that people who copied or stored the data could be traced.