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California Fitness

Members of failed Hong Kong gym chain shocked at proposal to sell their personal data

California Fitness customers worried by website invitation that has no option for those opposed to idea by company’s provisional liquidator

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 10:19pm

Former California Fitness customers have expressed alarm at a proposal by the provisional liquidator of the debt-ridden gym chain to sell their personal data.

The suggestion was posted on the Facebook page of parent company JV Fitness, which has become a platform for liquidator ShineWing to disseminate information since the troubled operator shut its 12 branches across the city in July. It had about 64,000 members.

Both the Chinese and English versions invite members to “provide their indication” on a website on whether they would agree to having their personal data sold to help to recoup losses for the chain, which faces a winding-up petition.

California Fitness was pumped for growth, but not fit for purpose

When the Post tried to access the site there was no option of refusing to provide the data – a worry raised by a number of members on the internet on Thursday.

After clicking “submit” without first ticking the only box available on the page, which indicates agreement, a pop-up window said “you need to agree the terms”.

A ShineWing spokesman stressed the page was for gauging indication and that it was a limited design due to technological constraints and it was not intended for those who did not want to give their consent.

“Your data would not be shared instantly as soon as you click the box,” he said.

However, he stopped short of giving an assurance that those who indicated agreement now would be given a chance to change their minds in future if the data were to be sold.

No ordinary person would give permission on this
Gym member Jonathan Chan Chun-yin

The accounting firm said it had been seeking legal advice and would comply with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and contract terms.

The Privacy Commissioner urged the provisional liquidator to follow the law and obtain customers’ consent before any collection and transfer of personal information.

California Fitness member Jonathan Chan Chun-yin said he was worried that his personal information would be given away without his consent anyway. “No ordinary person would give permission on this.”

Another member, Frances Lee, said she was angry and would not allow the liquidator to sell her data.

The chain owes more than HK$100 million to former members and employees.