Car park firm breached drivers' privacy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2012, 12:00am


The privacy watchdog yesterday said one of the city's leading car park management firms had obtained drivers' information from the government's vehicle registry to promote its services.

Imperial Parking, which owns 50 car parks, was also accused of making a false statement to the Transport Department to obtain motorists' details. Convictions for the offence can result in up to six months in jail.

The Privacy Commission launched an investigation after a motorist complained about receiving a promotional letter from Imperial in 2009. The letter listed his name, address and vehicle registration plate, which Imperial admitted came from the Transport Department.

Privacy Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam-wang said the motorist provided the information to the department purely for car registration and licence application.

'He did not expect the information would be used for promotional purposes. Imperial used his information for promotions without his consent,' Chiang said.

He said the registry should only be used for transport-related purposes. He did not know how many drivers' details Imperial had obtained.

The commission said an Imperial employee was given a batch of vehicle licence plate numbers and asked to use the registry to obtain the owners' information so the company could promote a Sai Kung car park.

The employee, who did not know the source of the numbers, then searched the registry, citing 'legal proceedings' - and not promotions - as the reason for the acquiring the information. He said he cited the same reason when he did searches on behalf of Imperial to trace owners who had not paid for parking bay leases.

The watchdog report said Imperial breached the privacy ordinance, but had since destroyed all the information and promised not to do it again.

A department spokeswoman said the case had been referred to the police.

It was planning to amend the law to further protect car owners' privacy, she said.

Imperial did not respond to requests for comment.

In a second case, the commissioner criticised Hong Yip Service, part of Sun Hung Kai Properties, for installing a pinhole camera near a changing room of a private estate to monitor its staff. Two security guards were fired in 2009 for neglecting their duties after they were filmed taking rests in the room while on duty.

Hong Yip, which provides security services to more than 1,500 properties, removed the camera after the investigation. But it refused to disclose how many more pinhole cameras had been installed elsewhere.

The number of complaints received rose by more than a quarter, to 1,486 last year, the commission said.

Chiang attributed the rise to greater public awareness of privacy issues. Four firms were fined for repeatedly issuing promotional material when complainants had asked not to receive it.