Privacy complaints up as 'awareness rises'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 December, 2009, 12:00am

The privacy watchdog has seen a 25 per cent increase in complaints in the first 11 months of the year, but about 40 per cent of the cases could not be substantiated due to lack of evidence.

Complaints against three sectors - banking and finance, property management and telecommunications - accounted for 40 per cent of the 932 complaints. There were 731 complaints in the same period last year.

About a third of the 165 complaints against financial institutions were about the use of personal data to collect debts, or for use in direct marketing.

Some 40 per cent of the 112 complaints against the property management sector were about the use of their personal data in public notices.

Privacy Commissioner Roderick Woo Bun said the rising figures could be seen as a result of people becoming more aware of the need to protect their personal data.

'We notice that the public are more alert about how their personal data are used,' he said. 'I would say we are having a quiet revolution on the matter.'

Of the 783 cases that had been concluded, 325 were unsubstantiated. The privacy watchdog also found that more people were turning to the Administrative Appeals Board in a bid to overturn rulings.

'Some complainants do not provide us with evidence for their cases and our officers are unable to follow up,' Woo said.

Woo said he expected that a review of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance would be completed in two years. He hoped it would include a legal indemnity clause to free the watchdog from huge legal fees.

The watchdog was ordered to pay Cathay Pacific's legal costs of HK$2 million after the High Court in September overturned the Privacy Commissioner's ruling that barred the collection of medical records from cabin crew.

'Quiet revolution'

There were 731 complaints to the privacy watchdog in the first 11 months of last year. The number for the same period this year was: 932