|Date:JUNE 4, 1999|
Privacy Commissioner Takes Action Against A Telecommunication Company
The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data issued an enforcement notice yesterday (3 June) to Star Telecom Limited, directing it to take immediate measures to protect the personal information of its customers.
A citizen informed the Police early this week that documents containing individuals' personal information were left unattended on the street outside a Star Paging shop at Ma Tau Wai Road in Kowloon. The Police went to the scene and collected the documents, and later referred the case to the Privacy Commissioner.
Upon examination, the Privacy Commissioner found that these documents contained sensitive personal data of a large number of individuals, including copies of their ID cards and credit card statements.
The Privacy Commissioner is of the view that the incident involves Data Protection Principle 4 in the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, which provides that all practicable steps shall be taken to ensure that personal data held by a data user are protected against unauthorised or accidental access, processing, erasure or other use, having particular regard to the harm that could result if any of those things should occur.
"A contravention of a Data Protection Principle does not constitute an offence. The Privacy Commissioner can, however, enforce compliance with a Data Protection Principle by issuing an enforcement notice directing the party breaching a Data Protection Principle to take remedial measures," a spokesperson of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said.
"In view of the large volume of personal data involved and the seriousness of the matter, the Privacy Commissioner has decided to immediately issue an enforcement notice to the relevant organisation, directing it to take remedial action as a matter of urgency," the spokesperson added.
The enforcement notice requires an immediate review of the organisation's method of handling customers' personal data in each of its shops in Hong Kong, a written account of the incident, and the considering of other remedial measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.
"A contravention of an enforcement notice is an offence and an offender is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for two years, and in the case of a continuing offence, to a daily penalty of $1,000," the spokesperson added.
The Privacy Commissioner reminds organisations to ensure the security of the personal data they keep, through measures such as limiting the access of documents with personal data to authorised persons on a need-to-know basis only, implementing an audit system to check any irregularities of access to such data, classifying these documents as restricted or confidential, raising the privacy awareness of the personnel handling these documents, and when disposing these documents, shredding them first and disposing them in a secure manner.
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