1.The 2012 Legislative Council Election will be held on 9 September. While electioneering activities are in full swing, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Mr. Allan Chiang reminds all the candidates to comply with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (“the Ordinance”) in the collection and use of personal data.
2.Mr. Chiang said, “Candidates and/or their election agents will lobby potential voters by different communication means such as telephone, fax messages, SMS/MMS or E-mails. In some cases, the voters have no previous dealings with the caller and/or the candidate. They are concerned that the candidate might have obtained their personal data from sources other than the voter register. To provide practical guidance to candidates regarding compliance with the requirements under the Ordinance, my office updated the Guidance Note on Electioneering Activities (“the Guidance Note”) in October 2011”.
3.In 2011, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (“the PCPD”) received 119 complaints relating to electioneering activities. From January to July 2012, the number of such complaints was 21, most of which were brought forward from the District Council Election Year 2011. In most cases, the complainants alleged that their personal data were used in electioneering activities without their consent; the parties being complained against were suspected of lobbying voters by using voters’ data collected in past electioneering campaigns; and candidates and/or their election agents did not hide the names and e-mail addresses of the voters when sending mass e-mails to them, thereby revealing the names and e-mail addresses of all voters.
4.The outcome of investigation of the complaints in 2011 was as follows:
-62 cases were not followed up due to different reasons, including withdrawal by the complainants;
-35 cases were found to be unsubstantiated;
-20 cases were closed after PCPD expressed concerns to the parties being complained against according to the complainants’ requests;
-2 cases were resolved through mediation. The parties being complained against adopted remedial measures and undertook in writing that the contraventions would not be repeated.
5.The Commissioner reminds the candidates of Legislative Council Election to take note of the following:
(i)When collecting personal data for the purpose of electioneering, only adequate but not excessive personal data necessary for electioneering purpose shall be collected (e.g. Hong Kong Identity Card number should not be collected);
(ii)When soliciting personal data directly from an individual for electioneering, the individual should be informed of the purpose of collection of the data;
(iii)Personal data should not be collected by deceptive means or by mis-representing the purpose of the collection (e.g. collecting personal data in the pretext of opinion poll or assisting citizens to apply for government welfare);
(iv)When using personal data from sources other than the voter register for electioneering purpose, express and voluntary consent from the data subject must be obtained beforehand, unless the original purpose of collection of the data is directly related to the electioneering purpose;
(v)When being asked, candidates should inform the voters how they obtained the voters’ personal data;
(vi)Voters’ personal data must be safeguarded against accidental or unauthorized access by unrelated parties;
(vii)A list of individuals who find electioneering communication objectionable should be maintained to avoid approaching them to canvass for votes; and
(viii)Voters’ personal data must be destroyed after completion of all the electioneering activities.
6.The Guidance Note can be downloaded from the website of the PCPD (http://www.pcpd.org.hk/english/resources_centre/publications/files/electioneering_e.pdf) or obtained from its office at 12/F., Sunlight Tower, 248 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.