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Media Statements

Media Statement - Criminal Investigation Procedures Commenced on430 Cases ofOnline Disclosure of Personal Datain Accordance with the Law

Date: 26 July 2019

Criminal Investigation Procedures Commenced on
430 Cases of Online Disclosure of Personal Data
in Accordance with the Law

In response to the suspected disclosure of personal data of government officials, public figures, police officers, citizens and their family members at online discussion forums and instant messaging platforms, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (Privacy Commissioner) Mr Stephen Kai-yi WONG made the following statement:
  • The related links involved the disclosure of individuals’ (including children’s) personal data, especially for illegal purposes like bullying, incitement and intimidation, and without the consent of the related individuals. Such disclosure is definitely unfair and illegal, causing psychological harm to the parties involved. After preliminary investigation, the PCPD considers that the persons involved may contravene section 64 of Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (the Ordinance), which is a criminal offence.
  • The office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (PCPD) received the first related case on 14 June 2019. As at noon today (26 July 2019), the PCPD received 481 cases (51 of them are enquiry cases). 
  • Up to now, seven online social media platforms and discussion forums, and 622 web links were involved.
  • Affected persons include principal government officials and/or their family members, former government officials, Legislative Council Members/or their family members, former Legislative Council Members, public figures, police officers/or their family members, and other citizens.
  • Personal data involved in these cases are mostly name and photo. Other data includes identity card number, date of birth, address, telephone number, email address, education qualification, family status, occupation and job position.
  • The PCPD issued five press releases over the past month or so to urge members of the public not to commit cyberbullying, and to stress that similar disclosure and bullying acts may not only contravene the Ordinance, but also incur civil and criminal liabilities.
  • The PCPD has also set up a special team to proactively search for web links with improper posts.
  • Since June 2019, the PCPD has continuously alerted those related platforms regarding the web links that involved privacy intrusion and requested them to remove those links, and also request the netizens through them to delete the posts and stop posting such contents.  It was noted that a significant number of related web links have been removed immediately or in a short period of time. As at noon today (July 26 2019), the PCPD has requested the related platforms to remove a total of 622 web links, of which 391 web links (representing 63%) have already been removed. 
  • For those 231 web links that have not yet been removed, the PCPD will continue to request the related platforms to remove the contents and will continue reviewing those platforms.
The latest follow-up actions taken by the PCPD regarding the cases received are as follows: 
  • The PCPD has referred 430 cases that may involve a criminal offence under section 64 of the Ordinance to the Police for further investigation, such as conducting criminal investigations and collecting evidence as well as seeking legal advice from the Department of Justice to determine whether to initiate prosecution against the persons involved in accordance with the law. 
  • As some of the platforms involved are operated and managed from outside Hong Kong, the PCPD has liaised with relevant overseas privacy enforcement authorities and the relevant office in Hong Kong to enlist their assistance and advice.
  • The PCPD has liaised with the relevant overseas privacy enforcement authorities to seek their assistance and opinions in respect of handling cases of arbitrary disclosure of personal data for bullying, etc.
The Privacy Commissioner reminds netizens to respect others’ privacy.  The said disclosure of personal data online and bullying acts may break the law. As the enforcement agency, the PCPD enforces the law fairly regardless of the political orientation or identity of the affected parties. Contravention of the Ordinance may attract a maximum fine of HK$1,000,000 and imprisonment for five years.