The city's privacy watchdog said it supports the proposed changes to the companies law which would limit public access to directors' information, saying uncontrolled access might cause harm to the person.
Privacy commissioner Allan Chiang Yam-wang has added to the heated debate over the proposed changes to the Companies Ordinance by the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau to restrict public access to company directors and secretaries' personal details.
The proposed changes, expected to be carried out next year, has sparked fierce reaction from journalists who said it would compromise the flow of information and press freedom.
They said company searches are an important tool and source of information for investigative journalism. The Association of Banks has also rejected the changes.
But the proposal's supporters have welcomed the changes.
Chiang said the present arrangement, where anyone can access information about a company, including the home addresses and full identification numbers of its board, was "unsatisfactory" as it was "uncontrolled" and intruded on people's privacy.
He said unrestricted data access by "untrustworthy parties" might cause distress and harm to the subjects.
Chiang said he "respected" the framework provided by the new Companies Ordinance because it allowed only legitimate access to the directors' personal information and it was an improvement over the present system. The new ordinance neither provided unlimited data access nor totally withheld the data from public inspection.
Earlier yesterday, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Professor Chan Ka-keung said the proposed changes was a response to the public concern about privacy and an attempt to strike a balance.
The proposals are subject to approval by Legco.