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Media Statements

Media Statement

Date:19 May 2020

Privacy Commissioner Investigates Recent Doxxing of Government
Officials, Legislative Council Security Personnels,
Teachers and Students

 

The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (Privacy Commissioner), Mr Stephen Kai-yi WONG expressed concerns about a U-shape rebound of deplorable doxxing, particularly about 30 recent cases involving Government officials, Legislative Council security personnels, teachers and students.  In addition to disclosing personal data of the victims and their family members, some netizens threatened or even incited that harm be inflicted on their family members.
 
Upon discovering such doxxing postings during online patrol, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) has promptly initiated investigations. The Privacy Commissioner also urges the doxxers to stop the criminal acts immediately and has written to ask the social media platforms concerned to take down the postings without delay. With regard to those doxxing cases involving teachers and students, the PCPD has followed up with the schools concerned and provided assistance.
 
The Privacy Commissioner stressed that doxxing acts of this kind not only amount to a criminal offence under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO), but also violate data ethics adopted in many other places and are contrary to the overarching human dignity as protected by privacy rights. It is a total disregard of public interest as well.  These acts are definitely illegal and are absolutely unacceptable in any civilised society. Section 64(2) of the PDPO provides that a person commits an offence if the person discloses any personal data of a data subject without the consent of a data user who controls or is in possession of that personal data (including data obtained from the public domain), in particular those innocent parties (including the spouse and children of the doxxed victim), and the disclosure causes psychological harm or intimidation to the victim.  Upon conviction, the doxxer is liable to a maximum penalty of HK$1,000,000 and an imprisonment for 5 years.
 
Besides, the High Court granted earlier on an interim injunction order (HCA 2007/2019) restraining persons from wilfully disseminating or publishing any material or information on any internet-based platform or medium for the purpose of promoting, encouraging or inciting the use or threat of violence, intended or likely to cause bodily injury to any person or damage to any property unlawfully within Hong Kong. The order also restrains persons from wilfully assisting, causing, counselling, procuring, instigating, inciting, aiding or abetting others to commit any the aforesaid acts. The PCPD will refer cases of suspected violations of the interim injunction order to the Department of Justice for follow-up action(s).
 
In light of the prevalence of doxxing since June last year, the PCPD has proposed amendments to the PDPO for, amongst others, the prohibition of doxxing activities as explained to the Panel on Constitutional Affairs of the Legislative Council on 20 January 2020. The PCPD is currently working on the legislative amendments in detail with the Government.
 
 
Overall Situation of Doxxing and PCPD’s follow-up actions
 

  • The PCPD received the first doxxing and cyberbullying case on 14 June 2019. As of 5:00pm 15 May 2020, the PCPD received and upon online patrol and inspection found a total of 4,592 doxxing-related cases, concerning 17 online social platforms / discussion forums and 3,217 web links.
     
  • The victims of doxxing came from all sorts of backgrounds and all walks of life. Police officers and their family members were the single largest sector of people being doxxed. Of the aforesaid 4,592 cases, 1,630 cases (35% of the total number of cases) involved police officers and their family members; 186 cases (4% of total number of cases) involved Government officials and public servants.
     
  • As of 5:00pm 15 May 2020, the PCPD wrote to the 17 online platforms 182 times, urging them to remove a total of 3,039 web links and to post warnings that netizens who engage in doxxing and cyberbullying may commit a criminal offence under section 64 of the PDPO. Among those web links, 1,809 web links (60%) have already been removed.
     
  • The PCPD has referred 1,411 suspected cases of contravention of section 64 of the PDPO to the Police for further criminal investigation and prosecution.
     
  • In addition, the PCPD has referred 44 cases involving suspected violations of the interim injunction order to the Department of Justice for follow-up action(s).

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