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Case Notes

Case Notes

This case related to DPP1 - Purpose and manner of collection of personal data , Code of Practice on the Identity Card Number & Other Personal Identifiers

Case No.:2005C05

Property management body collected identity card numbers of persons driving out from a car park

Property management body : collection of identity card numbers of persons driving out from a car park viewed as excessive collection -- DPP1(1) and the code of practice on the identity card number and other personal identifiers

The Complaint

For the purpose of preventing car theft, the company managing a car park in a shopping mall sought to record Hong Kong identity card numbers of drivers who drove their vehicles leaving the car park between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Two drivers objected to the collection of their identity card numbers and made complaints to the Commissioner.

The management company explained that the measure was taken in view of the rising figures of thefts in car parks and after consulting a government department. The department confirmed that in response to the company's enquiries about car park theft, they had advised the company to step up car park security measures such as enhancing patrolling manpower and video monitoring, cooperation with the police in patrol exercise and display of notices reminding drivers of tips to protect their cars. The department however did not suggest the company to collect identity card numbers of car park users.

Findings of the Privacy Commissioner

The car park was opened to public use. The practice of collecting identity card numbers of drivers would result in large amount of sensitive personal data of individuals being collected and held by the management company. Before adopting such practice, it is imperative for the company to consider the adverse impact on individuals' personal data privacy and if there are any less privacy-intrusive alternatives.

One practical alternative is to adopt a "double permit" system whereby the vehicle registration number is marked on an "exit pass" given to the driver when he drives into the car park, so that security staff at the exit may then collect and check the same when the vehicle leaves the car park. Another alternative is to install electronic devices designed to capture the image of the number plate when the vehicle enters the car park and have it checked against the registration number of the vehicle leaving the car park to ensure that the same car park ticket is used for the same vehicle.

Paragraph of the PI Code allows the collection of identity card number where the use of the number by the data user is necessary for the prevention or detection of crime. Although the management company claimed that there had been three car thefts happening in the car park in the past two years, the company was unable to show that adoption of the above security measures recommended by the government department as well as the aforesaid alternatives could not satisfactorily solve the car theft problem. In the circumstances and according to a previous ruling of the Administrative Appeals Board in Administrative Appeals No.41/2004, the management company may not rely on the exemption provision in paragraph to collect identity card numbers of the drivers.

If collection of identity card numbers is allowed in this particular case, so will be the collection of identity card numbers of everyone entering and exiting a department store because of its shoplifting problem. This apparently is not the intention of introducing the PI Code. The Commissioner therefore considered it unnecessary and excessive in collecting the identity card numbers of the drivers by the management company in the circumstances of the case.

Action by the Privacy Commissioner

An enforcement notice was served on the management company and, as directed, the company ceased such practice of collecting drivers' identity card numbers and destroyed all records of identity card numbers so collected.

Category : Provisions/DPPs/COPs/Guidelines : Topic/Subject Matter :