Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department lost the personal data of 46 members of the public when a tablet used during last year’s information-gathering went missing, it emerged on Tuesday night. In a response available to media after a Chinese-language newspaper disclosed the news on Tuesday night, the department said the tablet was one of two such devices lost by census officers when they were conducting interviews with selected local households. The device contained information on 46 people in 12 households in the city. It was lost by an officer during a meal at a fast food restaurant. The cases were revealed as the Registration and Electoral Office was being grilled by the legislature and the public after it lost two laptops around the time of the chief executive election on March 26 in what was said to be the worst breaches of privacy in the city . ‘Nonsense’ reason for Hong Kong electoral data breach blasted A department spokesman said the compromised information was not timely deleted by remote software. But he said the department believed the risk of data leakage was “extremely low” because the information had been encrypted and the tablet was locked by dual-password authentication, which was “extremely difficult to crack”. Another tablet was reported lost at a department work station after an interviewer finished his or her shift. But the spokesman said the department had managed to immediately delete all the information on that device with remote software and believed there was no data leakage in that case. Sharp growth in Hong Kong’s elderly population worries census chief Both cases were reported to police, and the affected households and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data were informed. The department did not explain why the public was not earlier informed about the incidents. A police spokesman said the cases were reported at Yau Ma Tei police station on July 24, and at Tai Po police station on August 1. It was not revealed which tablet case was reported first. A Yau Tsim district investigation team was on the first case, which was being treated as theft in which police found “not enough evidence to make an arrest”. Snakes alive: Hong Kong census workers to be protected against snake or dog bites The other case was treated as “loss of government property”. The by-census was conducted between June 30 and August 2 when 300,000 randomly selected households – about 10 per cent of residential addresses in the city – were invited to furnish information to about 6,500 census officers in face-to-face interviews. For the first time, tablets were used to collect data. The households could also respond via electronic questionnaire. The city’s privacy watchdog said it was notified about the incidents and had finished a compliance review of the incidents. It was satisfied with the remedial measures taken by the department. It is an established practice for the department to conduct a population census every 10 years and a by-census midway between full-scale population censuses.