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PRIVACY

Hong Kong to lobby Google over the 'right to be forgotten'

Watchdog seeks backing of region in bid to extend privacy net to Asia

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 4:53am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 9:31am

With Google bowing to a "right to be forgotten" ruling in Europe, Hong Kong's privacy chief will ask his regional counterparts to join him in pressing the internet search giant to extend the same safeguards to the region.

Privacy Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam-wang revealed his plan ahead of the 41st Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities forum, which opens in Seoul tomorrow.

Privacy authorities from 15 jurisdictions including the US, Canada, Macau, Australia, and New Zealand will discuss privacy issues, including last month's European Court of Justice decision.

The court determined that people have the right to ask search companies to remove links to information about them that is "inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive".

The decision - which ruled search engines are covered by the EU's data protection laws - has left search companies in a bind as it provided little guidance on how to comply. It has also stirred fears of internet censorship, suppression of knowledge and the whitewashing of history.

Google has set up a web form to take requests in Europe. It said it would weigh each request with the public's right to know before making a decision.

Chiang said Google should extend the new service.

"As a responsible enterprise, Google should also entertain removal requests from other parts of the world to meet their privacy expectations," he said.

The city's privacy chief will raise the issue at the forum in South Korea and hopes to garner the support of his regional counterparts.

"We are not exercising a legal right but requesting a service that is available to EU citizens," he said, adding that he had already contacted his counterparts about the issue.

In the two weeks after the ruling on May 13, Google received about 41,000 requests, 12,000 on the day after it was delivered.

Chiang agreed there had to be a balance between the right to be forgotten and the public's right to know. But people with unflattering episodes in their past, such as spent convictions, old debts, old bankruptcy records or being the victim of false allegations were entitled to have them erased.

"This right is not an absolute right but subject to an overriding public interest. But these people should be given a second chance in life," Chiang said.

"We are not talking about rewriting history. For example, those with spent convictions currently protected by our rehabilitation law should be allowed to have their blemished records removed from the public domain."

But Chiang said a non-legal approach to dealing with the issue would be more appropriate for Hong Kong as Google and other search engines did not fall within the meaning of a "data user" governed by the city's privacy laws.

Also, the US company did not even have a data-processing operation in the city. The privacy chief therefore ruled out the possibility that a local internet user could make the same legal challenge against Google or other search engines.

"I don't think Hongkongers have the legal right to make the same challenge against Google."

While opting for a soft approach, other search companies will not be targeted at the forum since Google is the only firm that has introduced the search removal service.

The privacy watchdog last year received 82 complaints about the retention of personal data, with 54 removal requests made to the data users.

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This article is now closed to comments

KwunTongBypass
Good! And why only Google, include all the others too, including Baidu and the likes in China (good luck!)
hkhk
This is dangerous as it is primarily about allowing powerful people to control sensitive information about themselves. Don't do it Hong Kong!
539eafa8-bbdc-4afd-88ea-08d80a3209ca
I love Hong Kong for the right to be forgotten. I wish the USA would do the same. Why should people have their private information plastered out there, especially if that information was inaccurate and misleading and used to destroy or defame someone. It is horrible and makes you feel like your nothing. The usa is so greedy and would rather keep that stuff up there to hurt people and put all that private information out there for people to further defame, page rank and post online. America needs to get the RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN LAW. This is why the US has so many suicides and people with mental problems. Change the law in America and stop operating in the dark ages. I wish I lived in Hong Kong or Europe. The United States SUCKS AND SO DOES THE ACLU.
pindarwong
Beware unintended consequences.
539eafa8-bbdc-4afd-88ea-08d80a3209ca
Google controls people now and that is TOO much power. They have private information that should not be online for the world to see. They are the dictators of the world and so are the other social media sites that simply suck. We need reform. I wish the USA would pass this law, we need it.
Google has allowed too much information online and now people can page rank and manipulate negative stories that would prevent you from getting a job and moving forward. Thats not right. We need the right to be forgotten law asap.
53a075cb-1750-4da1-98d6-52ac0a3209cb
EVERY COUNTRY SHOULD SUPPORT THE RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN LAW. GOOGLE HAS NO RIGHT TO BE IN CONTROL OF WHATS PRIVATE AND WHATS PUBLIC. GOOGLE IS A DISGRACE AND AN EMBARRASSMENT TO THE WORLD AND TO ITSELF. GREEDY GOOGLE, WILL HURT PEOPLE AND DESTROY THEM FOR A QUICK BUCK.
53a075cb-1750-4da1-98d6-52ac0a3209cb
Right now Google is out of control and so are these social media sites who are getting kickback for advertising to write a negative story about someone and keep it on the internet to be indexed at the top. Suppose someone wrongfully got arrested like the woman in Connecticut who was a nurse and the social media site wrote the story or better yet, suppose a dirty politician paid money into a social media site for advertising dollars; everyone knows these social media sites will favor anyone who invests in their advertising to write misleading and inaccurate stories, then publish them online to intentionally embarrass and defame someone. The person goes to court, the accuser NEVER shows up and now this story is online and then later indexed to the top of google so that the person who invested in advertising for this social media site would use this as retribution making it hard for that person to get a job and move forward with their life. This community news has now become national. How insensitive and cruel is this. They have even used black hat and other features like CLICK-BAIT to keep the story at the top of google. Now this person is being harassed online and can not remove this story because this paid off Social Media and Google who is probably getting a kickback for clicks is keeping an outdated, misleading story online to punish and destroy someone all because a dirty immature investor who paid into social media concocted a misleading story for vengeance.
dmw
This is about the public domain, with public not private information, and the right to remember it. Would you like budding politicians to erase their past before running for election? What about those who remember public information, and repeat it after it has been removed - don't they have freedom of speech? Should search engines then censor those who remember? Like the arrow of time, the arrow of publication only points in only one direction - you cannot "unpublish" public domain material, and efforts to do so are futile, oppressive and dangerous to free society. Let the reader judge the relevancy of old information. Should newspapers like this one censor the search results of their own archives too? That would be too difficult and costly - they may just withdraw their archives from public view altogether. Be careful what you wish for.
53a075cb-1750-4da1-98d6-52ac0a3209cb
Good point and great post. The USA has allowed peoples personal and private information to go to far. The freedom of speech in this country is not being protected, it is being directed at destroying innocent people and using social media sites that thrive off advertising money to orchestrate negative stories and negative scenerios to write highly damaging stories to intentionally destroy people. Google then violates their own guidelines and allows the stories to be indexed and black hat to the top of the page. It is disgraceful and shameful that nobody in this country is seeing this as common sense law. What happens if you get an expungement. The law allows that to be forgotten, but the story from some dirty social media site still has this online for the world to see. What about vindictive people who use those stories to hurt people who are innocent. The reason the USA is not quick to pick up on this is because they are nosy, immature and racist. As long as it doesn't affect them, they don't care and those it does affect, who cares. Most of American Social Media Sites have become reckless, irresponsible and Ruthless. No fact checking, dirty Police Departments who report news that is racist, biased and one sided.
AMERICA NEEDS TO SUPPORT THE RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN. IT'S COMMON SENSE LAW.
impala
Hong Kong lobbying Google? What the... we have really gone through the Looking Glass now haven't we?

Companies lobby governments, not the other way around. If the HK government want its citizens to have this right to be forgotten by search engines, then they should legislate to that extent. That is how such things become rights. It the law, stupid.

You don't go ask a company kindly if they could maybe do this. Has our government now completely lost its mind?

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