Hong Kong's privacy chief amplifies call for Google to extend 'right to be forgotten'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 June, 2014, 10:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 1:01am


The privacy chief has renewed his call for Google to provide its "right to be forgotten" globally - including in Hong Kong - as international pressure mounts on the internet search giant to apply the new safeguard beyond Europe.

Allen Chiang Yam-wang called on Google to pioneer a "borderless service" and adopt a "non-discriminatory approach" to applying the privacy right.

"We now live in a global village. … There must be a significant number of UK passport-holders among the Hong Kong population," Chiang said yesterday "Could they not invoke the EU legislation and exercise their right to be de-indexed?" he asked.

His call was in response to a new form set up by Google to take removal requests in Europe in compliance with a ruling last month by the European Court of Justice that individuals had the right to ask for removal of links to information about them that was "inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive".

Despite opposition from marketing and internet interests in Hong Kong, the privacy commissioner argued the search giant should face the issue globally.

"Similar cases will soon be heard in Canada as well as in Japan. … Future court rulings outside the EU may oblige Google to provide the service," he wrote on his blog yesterday.

"It makes good customer service and business competitiveness sense for Google to demonstrate its privacy friendliness by pioneering a borderless service," he said.

As well as offering the new service in the 28 EU countries where the ruling is binding, Google has extended it to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

A Google spokesman said for the moment the service was only being provided to Europeans to comply with the court's ruling, but stopped short of explaining why it had been extended to some non-EU countries, though not to Asia.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Interactive Marketing, scoffed at the idea of extending the right to be forgotten to Asia.

"This is self-deceptive," he said. "The greatness of the internet hinges on its high degree of information transparency that enhances public scrutiny against social injustice."

Fong suggested privacy authorities in each country talk to Google about setting up a mechanism suited to handing such requests in their regions.

Chester Soong Tak-kar, chairmen of the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association, expressed fears that the public's right to know might be jeopardised. "There is this danger," he argued. "Some wannabe politicians or celebrities may take advantage of this right to whitewash their unflattering past."