Date: 28 August 2019
Privacy Commissioner Strongly Condemns Doxxing and Bullying
Arrest already made
Promotion and Education in Schools Strengthened
The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (Privacy Commissioner) Mr Stephen Kai-yi WONG strongly condemns the recent acts of infringing personal data privacy, doxxing and bullying, in which intimidation and harassment are getting more serious, and children and youngsters are involved. The Privacy Commissioner seriously warns again that the persons involved in such acts may commit the criminal offence under section 64 of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO) and the maximum fine is HK$1,000,000 and imprisonment for 5 years. Other criminal offences include criminal intimidation. Police has already made arrest. The office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) also strongly appeals to netizens not to commit those criminal offences. They should stop uploading or forwarding relevant personal data and offensive remarks, and should not incite doxxing and bullying.
PCPD’s Follow-up Actions
From 14 June to now (noon 28 August), the PCPD received and proactively found 768 cases related to suspected disclosure of personal data of government officials, public figures, police officers, citizens and their family members, and protesters at online discussion forums or instant messaging platforms. Personal data such as name, address, telephone number, photo, academic qualification, date of birth, identity card number, etc. was disclosed at social networking platforms with derogatory or abusive comments for the purposes of ostracising, intimidating and hurting the data subjects.
Since June, the PCPD has sent 38 letters to eight social networking platforms and online discussion forums to request their compliance with statutory and corporate ethical responsibilities by removing those improper posts and also request the netizens/subscribers through them to stop uploading those posts in order to curb the cyberbullying acts. A special team was set up to proactively search for links with improper posts. As at noon 28 August 2019, the PCPD has requested the related platforms to remove a total of 872 web links, of which 474 (representing 54%) have already been removed. The PCPD will continue to request the related platforms to remove the contents and will continue reviewing those platforms. 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. (See Note)
Doxxing and bullying getting more serious
Recently, personal data of police officers’ wives or girlfriends were collected and posted on the internet for so-called “contests”, alongside with posts of intimidation, harassment, sexual assault or hate speech. Moreover, some people incited others to dox police officers’ children on the internet systematically by attempting to list out in a tabulated format their personal data in detail (including name, identity card number, address, telephone number, social network account number, school name, class, parents’names). Those posts which caused harm to the data subjects, especially minors, women and children, are definitely illegal.
In addition, as some netizens were dissatisfied with the political orientation or behaviour of a public figure and his brother, they appealed to others to search for the pet shop operated by the brother and implied that they would disrupt the operation of the shop.
The Privacy Commissioner stresses, “Children or adults may fall victim to doxxing or bullying. As children and youngsters are vulnerable groups, the privacy risk and psychological harm caused to them by doxxing, bullying and intimidation are beyond comprehension. Bullying and hate speech are illegal acts that have no place in civilised society.”
Protecting children and youngsters against doxxing or bullying
As a new school year will start soon, it is expected that the number of cases related to doxxing or bullying of children and youngsters will be on a rise. Given the unprecedented severity of the situation, the PCPD’s special team will take appropriate measures and give priority to cases related to children and youngsters. Timely and proper follow-up actions will be adopted to mitigate the harm to children and youngsters.
Strengthening promotion and education
To remind young people that cyberbullying is an illegal act that seriously infringes others’ privacy and to teach them how to avoid cyberbullying, the PCPD has written to the principals of all primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong and provided them with the PCPD’s promotion and education materials, including videos, PowerPoint presentations and leaflets to assist teachers in their teaching work.
Moreover, at the school year commences, the PCPD will launch its annual promotional event, the “Student Ambassador for Privacy Protection Programme” to disseminate the message of data protection. For details, please visit the PCPD’s website.
(Note): Between 1 June and 28 August 2019, the PCPD published a total of eight media statements; gave 23 responses to media enquiries; recorded 56,292 views of its post or warning on social network platform; the Privacy Commissioner explained to the media or the public for more than 40 times (e.g. “政經星期六” on Commercial Radio on 29 June, “Hong Kong Today” on RTHK Radio 3 on 23 July); about 510 relevant reports on the internet, electronic and traditional media.
Links of the media statements:
14 June 2019
Respect Others’ Privacy and Public Interest While Having Freedom of Expression
23 June 2019
Privacy: Not a Door for Bullying and Intimidation, Nor a Sword for Arbitrary Law Enforcement; Not a Shield for Unlawful Acts
11 July 2019
Privacy Commissioner's Response to the Display of Police Officers' Personal Data in Public Places
19 July 2019
Privacy Commissioner’s Response to Suspected Disclosure of Personal Data of Government Officials, Legislators and Police Officers at Online Discussion Forums and Instant Messaging Platforms
24 July 2019
Privacy Commissioner Has Started Reviewing Related Websites and Urges Netizens to Respect Others’ Privacy
26 July 2019
Criminal Investigation Procedures Commenced on 430 Cases of Online Disclosure of Personal Data in Accordance with the Law
14 August 2019
Privacy Commissioner responds to media reports on open letter issued by purported PCPD staff
Link of the post on social network platform: