Online privacy guidelines urged

SEVEN out of nine online service providers involving eight million users do not publish legal guidelines for disclosing users’ information upon government request, an internet activist group has found.

Keyboard Frontline (鍵盤戰線) published Hong Kong’s first review of privacy and transparency practices by the popular providers. Although four stated that they will disclose users’ information upon court order, only Memehk (謎米香港) and Inmedia (香港獨立媒體) asked for the purpose of data collection. Both also disclose the number of data requests by authorities.
Memehk chief executive Anthony Lam Yue-yang (林雨陽) said last year the police called him to hand in users’ information for investigation but he refused unless there was a court order.

Among the 2,431 technology crime cases from October 2014 to January this year, police submitted 1,156 user information requests to internet service providers and online forums.

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok (莫乃光) said law enforcers refused to answer whether a search warrant or a court order was in place when it requested data.

He urged the government to increase transparency by stating the purpose of retrieving data. Keyboard Frontline also found a third of providers collected sensitive personal data in registration.

For example, Baby Kingdom (親子王國) requires full name, family status, number of children and annual family income to register an account.

HKGolden (香港高登) demands school e-mail, home number, mobile number and year of birth for user registration.

Keyboard Frontline spokeswoman Glacier Kwong Chung-ching (鄺頌晴) said online service providers may use excessive personal information for marketing purpose.

The other five online service providers surveyed are HKGalden (膠登討論區), Discuss (香港討論區), HKEPC (電腦領域), My Sina Blog (新浪網誌) and Uwants.

(The Standard, Harry Ng, 14 September 2015)

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