Hong Kong protests: Privacy chief alarmed by thousands of doxxing cases


Commissioner calls for tougher laws and more powers for watchdog to tackle 'weaponising' of personal data

Wong Tsui-kai |

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Stephen Wong spoke about the mental stress caused by doxxing.

The trend of “weaponising” doxxing – publishing the private information of others without their permission – is alarming, says the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), Stephen Wong Kai-yi.

Speaking at a Lunar New Year media gathering on Tuesday, the head of the privacy watchdog revealed they had received 9,182 complaints last year, a nearly 400 per cent increase compared to 2018.

Of the complaints received in 2019, 4,370 were related to doxxing. Of those 2,480 were specifically about a case in which a police officer held up the ID card of a Stand News reporter who was live streaming protests inside a Tai Po shopping mall on December 26.

The privacy commissioner’s office also recorded 4,758 cases of doxxing last year, referring more than 1,400 to the police.

Hong Kong protests: Police show another reporter’s ID card on camera; privacy chief says incident will be investigated

The commissioner described the problems as twofold; firstly, the laws are not comprehensive and need to be updated to keep pace with the technology, and secondly, the watchdog lacked the powers of criminal investigation and sanction.

“As we do not have overseas jurisdiction, we can only make requests to operators of foreign websites, telling them laws have been breached here and making an appeal on ethical grounds. Our success rate has been around 70 per cent,” Wong said.

He also shared his personal experiences and the mental stress caused by doxxing. “The point is to cause anxiety, like calling you names or threatening you. Or a person you don’t know saying they will come ‘celebrate your birthday’,” he said. “Imagine how worried that would make you. I am relatively old and I was worried. How do you think children or their parents would feel?”

Meanwhile, the Legislative Council began the process of reviewing Hong Kong’s privacy laws on Monday. A motion by technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok to give the watchdog more powers and move the review for a public consultation was rejected.