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Media Statements

Media Statement - Instant Messaging App Changes itsTerms of Service and Privacy PolicyPrivacy Commissioner Appeals to Users toCarefully Consider the New Terms

Date:11 January 2021

Instant Messaging App Changes its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
Privacy Commissioner Appeals to Users to Carefully Consider the New Terms

The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (Privacy Commissioner), Ms Ada CHUNG Lai-ling, noted that an instant messaging app widely used in Hong Kong (the messaging app) had recently announced changes to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Users would need to agree to share their information with the parent company of the messaging app and its subsidiaries if they wish to continue using the messaging app. Users have to agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy on or before 8 February; otherwise they cannot continue to use their accounts on the messaging app.
The Privacy Commissioner is concerned that the data to be shared includes a substantial amount of personal data, and appeals to users to be aware of the changes in question, carefully consider the new Terms, and take note of the types of data to be shared and how they will be used under the new Terms and Privacy Policy. Parents are also reminded to, as far as possible, provide appropriate guidance to their children who use the messaging app.
The Privacy Commissioner said, “The new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy of the messaging app involve the sharing of various types of personal data with another online social platform. I remind users to deliberate carefully and clearly understand the details of the new Terms and Privacy Policy before they give consent. They should consider, in particular, whether they are willing to transfer their personal data to companies associated with the messaging app for storage and use. If users choose not to consent, they should make preparations to back up their data.”
“I also note that many children and teenagers in Hong Kong have their own smart phones and use the messaging app. I remind parents to give appropriate guidance to their children as far as possible regarding the new Terms of Service of the messaging app.”
In addition, given the wide usage of the messaging app by the general public in Hong Kong and the public concern about the privacy issues involved in the sharing of data, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data also appeals to the messaging app to:

  • clearly explain to users the arrangements for the sharing of personal data under the new Terms, the personal data involved and how the data will be used;
  • extend the period for consideration by users to allow ample time for users to consider the new Terms;
  • consider excluding users of the messaging app who do not have accounts on the online social platform concerned from the new Terms; and
  • consider providing practical alternatives to users who do not agree to the new Terms and Privacy Policy so that they can continue using the service of the messaging app.

According to the to-be-updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy announced by the messaging app, user information will be shared with the messaging app’s parent company and its subsidiaries to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customise, support and market its services and related products. According to the messaging app’s announcement, the information includes:

  • Account registration information (such as users’ phone number)
  • Transaction data
  • Service-related information
  • Information on how users interact with others (including businesses) when using their services
  • Users’ mobile device information
  • Users’ IP address
  • Other information to be collected as identified in the Privacy Policy, or obtained upon notice to users or based on users’ consent, which may include:

o   Account information (for example, a profile name of the user’ choice and a profile picture)

o   Messages sent under certain circumstances (for example, when a message is undelivered)

o   Contacts in users’ address book

o   Status information provided by users

o   Transaction and payments data in purchases or other financial transactions made through the payments services or other services of the messaging app

o   Customer support and other related communications

o   Users’ activities log and information (for example, online status, group information, profile photo, etc.)

o   Users’ device and connection information (for example, hardware model, operating system information, battery level, signal strength, browser information, mobile network, connection information, language and time zone, etc.)

o   Location information of users’ mobile device

o   Cookies

  • Information about users provided to the messaging app by third parties, third-party service providers and/or other associated companies