Date: 15 October 2019
Privacy Commissioner’s Response on Whether the CCTV Footage of a Tertiary Institution Should Be Disclosed
In response to large number of enquiries to the office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) regarding whether the CCTV footage of a tertiary institution should be disclosed, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (Privacy Commissioner), Mr Stephen Kai-yi WONG, today made the following response:
As the factual information of the case is not yet ascertained, and the case itself is under investigation by the Police, in which the CCTV footage in question would be part of the important evidence, the PCPD is in no position to comment on individual case.
In general, any person or organisation is bound by Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO) when collecting personal data. It has to specify the purposes and scope of use of the data in a Personal Information Collection Statement. According to PDPO, a data user can only use the collected data for the purposes stated at the time of collection. For use of the data for new purposes, the data user must obtain prior consent of the data subject.
PDPO also provides that, if the personal data is used or transferred without complying with PDPO, for instance, for a new purpose and without the consent of the data subject, the question of whether the exemption provisions under PDPO can apply comes into play. Examples include crime prevention, prosecution and other purposes related to public interests. The exemption is only a defence for a data user when it is not complying with PDPO, but does not impose an obligation upon the data user to disclose relevant information.
PDPO protects personal data, which refers to information relating to a living individual and that can be used to identify that individual. However, if CCTV footage involves other people, their personal data should also be protected, because personal data is not owned by an institution, but belongs to an individual. To change its use, apart from relying on the exemption provisions as a defence, an organisation may make every effort to prevent the identity of those people from being revealed, such as masking or blurring their facial images in the video clip.