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Media Statements

Media Statement

Date:28 January 2021

PCPD Sets Up Enquiry/Complaint Hotline about Doxxing and
Releases the Results of a Survey on Protection of Personal Data Privacy

The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (Privacy Commissioner), Ms Ada CHUNG Lai-ling, reported on the work of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) in 2020 and released the results of a survey to gauge the attitudes and views of the public and organisations on the protection of personal data privacy in a media briefing held today (28 January).
 
Summing up the year 2020, the Privacy Commissioner said, “2020 was a year fraught with challenges. To address the personal data privacy issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the PCPD has striven to provide comprehensive views, opinions or guidance to our stakeholders in a timely manner. These included, for example, the issue of practical guidance on the protection of personal data under work-from-home arrangements and practical guidance for schools on the collection and use of the personal data of teachers, staff and students when schools started to resume classes in phases from last September.”
 
Doxxing
 
The handling of doxxing cases continued to be an important task of the PCPD last year. In 2020, a total of 1,198 doxxing cases were handled. Of these cases, 1,036 were complaints received or cases discovered in 2020. Though the number of cases in 2020 had substantially dropped by 76% when compared to 4,370 cases in 2019, the psychological harm suffered by the data subjects and their family members as a result of doxxing should not be understated. The Privacy Commissioner stressed, “It is saddening to see the harm caused by doxxing. Other than being morally wrong, doxxing acts may also lead to serious legal consequences. In 2020, five defendants were convicted of offences relating to doxxing, and two of them were sentenced to immediate imprisonment respectively for contravention of section 64(2) of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO) in disclosing personal data obtained without the consent of relevant data users, and for civil contempt of court in violation of an injunction order granted by the court.”
 
Apart from ongoing review of online platforms, proactive online patrols and follow-up actions, the PCPD will step up its publicity and education efforts and collaborate with the Police, other regulatory bodies and trade associations to combat doxxing behaviour. A hotline (3423 6666) is set up today (28 January) to answer enquiries or complaints relating to doxxing.
 
Complaints
 
The PCPD received 4,862 complaint cases last year, which represented a drop of 47% when compared to 9,182 cases in 2019. This was mainly attributable to the substantial decrease of doxxing cases. However, it represented an increase of 157% when compared to the figure in 2018 (1,890 cases). Of these complaint cases, 91% involved complaints against private organisations or individuals, while the remaining 9% were against public organisations or government departments.
 
Data breach incidents
 
In 2020, the PCPD received 103 personal data breach notifications from organisations, representing a decrease of 26% year-on-year. The data breach incidents involved hacking, system misconfiguration, unauthorised access to personal data by employees, loss of documents or portable devices, inadvertent disclosure of personal data by emails or post, and accidental erasure of personal data, etc.
 
The PCPD initiated 344 compliance checks in 2020, representing a 11% increase as compared to 311 compliance checks in 2019.
 
Survey Results
 
The PCPD also released the results of a survey today (28 January). In 2020, the PCPD commissioned the Social Sciences Research Centre of The University of Hong Kong to conduct a survey to understand the public awareness and attitude on the protection of personal data privacy; the work of organisations in protecting personal data privacy; and how supportive they were of suggested amendments to the PDPO.
 
The survey found that:
  • The public were prudent in protecting their personal data. 80% of the respondents were aware of the privacy settings on their social media accounts, out of which over 80% had checked the privacy settings. Over 50% of the respondents with social media accounts stated that they would share personal photos or personal opinions with “friends” only.
  • Nearly 60% of the respondents were inclined not to pay $20 per month to providers of free online services in exchange for their personal data not being used for receiving personalised advertisements. Only less than 30% of the respondents were inclined to pay that fee.
  • An overwhelming majority (93%) of the respondents used smartphones, out of which an overwhelming majority (98%) had installed instant messaging apps. Of this population, although a large majority (77%) were aware that the apps had access to the contact information on their phones, a large majority (70%) considered such access as privacy invasive. 34% considered the access as serious invasion of privacy.
  • Nearly 60% of the organisation respondents considered that they had little difficulties in complying with the requirements under the PDPO.
  • The respondents showed support for amendments to the PDPO to include the introduction of administrative fines and a mandatory data breach notification system for affected customers and the PCPD, and giving the PCPD the power to require removal of doxxing contents, carry out criminal investigation and initiate prosecution, etc.
 
For the coming year, the Privacy Commissioner said, “We will continue to take a multi-pronged approach. We will enhance enforcement to protect the public’s personal data privacy while continuing to promote the culture of respecting and protecting personal data. We will also strengthen cooperation with education institutions to produce educational materials. Meanwhile, we have been actively working with the Government to consider the formulation of concrete proposals in amending the PDPO. We will strive to provide the necessary input to the Government in the legislative amendment exercise.”
  
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Watch videos on the PCPD’s Work on Combatting Doxxing and the results of a Survey presented by the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong, Ms Ada CHUNG Lai-ling in the media briefing. 
Download Privacy Commissioner’s Presentation
Download the Highlights of Survey Results
Download the full Public Survey Report and the full Data Users Survey Report

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