Government insists on opt-out system for direct marketing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 October, 2010, 12:00am

Customers will be asked to opt out of allowing their personal data to be used by direct marketers rather than having to opt in, if the government gets its way.

Despite the privacy watchdog and human rights groups preferring a more data-protection-friendly opt-in model, Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Adeline Wong Ching-man said the administration wanted the opt-out model.

'Apart from considerations about the livelihood of people who work in the direct marketing industry, the government has to take into account the fact that some customers may want to accept calls from direct marketers,' Wong told RTHK, adding that many countries favoured this option.

Wong said the direct marketing sector told her there was less customer resistance to the opt-out model. She did not respond directly when asked why the public interest was not the paramount consideration.

Last year, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data called on the government to consult the public on the matter.

Privacy Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam-wang said yesterday he was disappointed with the government's latest proposal.

Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai called for the opt-in model, in which the data user has to obtain the explicit consent of the data subject.

The current government proposal does not offer wider powers for the privacy commissioner, reigniting fears the commission is a toothless tiger.

Wong said the government considered it was important to retain existing arrangements, under which the police conduct criminal investigations and the Department of Justice prosecutes.

'The current proposal is similar to the arrangement for the Equal Opportunities Council,' she said.

Many proposals submitted by the privacy commissioner were not included in the current consultation report.

Wong explained yesterday that a plan to make it an offence for a person to disclose personal data for profit and malicious purposes was not designed to target people exposing other people's personal backgrounds online.

Rather, it was to sanction employers who steal employees' personal data for sale and personal gain.