Internet users in Hong Kong need more legislation to protect personal data

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2017, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2017, 7:05pm

Social media is becoming increasingly popular. While it is welcomed by users as a free platform for maintaining their social lives, it comes with a price.

Individuals are often ignorant about privacy issues and allow operators of social media sites to use their personal data for direct marketing.

Hong Kong’s direct marketing regulations are among the most complex in the world. The Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance sets a sufficiently high threshold for the consent of the use of personal data for direct marketing purposes. It also imposes fairly comprehensive requirements when it comes to companies’ purpose, manner and duration of collecting and retaining our personal data.

However, there is room for improvement. The definition under the current laws may not provide sufficient protection for the kind of personal data that is specifically extracted by social media companies.

This is because personal data generally refers to a person’s name, address, age or medical and health records, and does not necessarily cover browser-generated information. Besides, certain third party data miners such as data processors and advertising network providers are not directly regulated by the ordinance.

Therefore, a two-pronged approach is needed to tackle the issue.

The first is introducing new legislation to broaden the definition of personal data to include information that is collected via social media companies’ marketing strategies.

The second solution is not only to continue existing efforts of promoting personal data privacy via the Privacy Awareness Week and competitions and seminars, but also to direct some efforts to highlighting personal data protection directly on social media platforms.

Clarence Chan, on behalf of a group of University of Hong Kong business law students