Complaints to privacy watchdog on the rise

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 August, 2011, 12:00am


Complaints to the privacy watchdog rose by almost a fifth in the first half of the year. It attributed the increase to growing awareness stemming from last year's Octopus Cards scandal.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data received 571 complaints in the first six months of the year, up 18.2 per cent year on year. Most were about the banking and finance, property management and telecoms industries, which accounted for 85, 62 and 56 cases respectively. People were mostly unhappy about personal data being used without their consent. There were also concerns over how data was collected and for what purpose, and about data security issues.

Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam-wang (pictured) said the Octopus episode was a turning point that put the spotlight on personal data.

'The Octopus saga is actually a very good lesson,' he said. 'Many residents have become conscious about personal-data protection in a short period of time. Many commercial institutions also realised that if they cannot handle the issue well, it could hurt their reputation.'

Octopus Holdings stirred a public outcry after it was revealed that it had made HK$44 million by selling the data of cardholders to third parties.

Chiang said the office had planned to hold 15 courses for different business sectors on how to handle personal data from April to June, but the reaction was so positive that it held 25. Still, he thinks corporations can still improve on the safeguarding of personal data.

'I think their level of respecting privacy is not high enough,' he said.

The commissioner plans to make it compulsory for the public sector, banking, telecommunications and insurance industries to disclose the nature of the personal data they collect and the purpose of doing so, and make this information public by mid-2013.