New privacy chief takes more flak over breaches when he led HK Post

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am

Fresh evidence emerged yesterday of privacy infringements at Hongkong Post in 2003, when new Privacy Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam-wang was postmaster general.

The latest twist in the controversy surrounding his appointment as head of the privacy watchdog has brought calls for the setting up of an independent investigation commission, to be headed by Chiang's predecessor as privacy commissioner, to ensure a fair probe into the Octopus card organisation's selling of customers' details to third parties.

Yip Kam-fu, head of the Union of Hong Kong Post Office Employees, gave details of a ruling by former privacy commissioner Raymond Tang Yee-bong on April 15, 2004, that Hongkong Post had disclosed personal details of staff without consent.

Yip said that as postmaster general at the time, Chiang should have been aware of the case and it should have reminded him of the importance of protecting people's privacy.

'That is why there is no excuse for him to say that he was not responsible for the pinhole cameras incident, and his credibility is seriously undermined,' he said.

Chiang had earlier denied direct responsibility for the installation of secret pinhole surveillance cameras at Cheung Sha Wan post office in 2005 - an incident investigated by the Privacy Commission that he now heads.

The 2004 case was prompted by a complaint from a member of staff. Hongkong Post's management sent information about sick-leave claims involving 19 post office staff to several post offices in the New Territories as a reference for frontline supervisors to address possible abuses of the taking of leave.

The commission found that the staff whose claims were used for this purpose had not been informed of the action - which amounted to a breach of privacy.

In Tang's ruling, Hongkong Post was criticised for breaching privacy regulations that state any information collected cannot be used for any purposes other than those stated at the time of collection.

Last night the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said it would not comment on individual cases.

A spokeswoman also declined to say whether Chiang was aware of the case when he was postmaster general between 2003 and 2006.

A spokeswoman for Hongkong Post said it needed time to look into the incident.

Meanwhile, the Civic Party has written to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen demanding the setting up of an independent investigation commission, to be headed by former privacy commissioner Roderick Woo Bun, to lead a probe into the Octopus saga, in the light of the controversy surrounding Chiang.

Octopus Cards is the subject of a probe by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner as a result of HK$44 million it made between 2006 and last year by selling customers' details to third parties, a practice that has sparked a public outcry.