Skip to content

Media Statements

Media Statement

Date: 5 April 2021

PCPD Issues Guidance on
Protecting Personal Data Privacy in
the Use of Social Media and Instant Messaging Apps

The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong, Ms Ada CHUNG Lai-ling, said, “The use of social media and instant messaging apps is very much part of everyday life for Hong Kong people.  However, the use of social media and instant messaging apps carries inherent yet non-negligible risks to users’ privacy in relation to personal data.”  In this regard, the PCPD today (5 April) issued the “Guidance on Protecting Personal Data Privacy in the Use of Social Media and Instant Messaging Apps” (Guidance), which provides the public with some practical advice to mitigate the privacy risks involved in the use of social media.
 
The Guidance points out that the use of social media and instant messaging apps (collectively, “social media”) is not really “free” because users’ personal data is usually monetised upon registration or in the course of user activities.  The Guidance highlights that users of social media often unwittingly reveal more information than they anticipate, and most materials shared online can leave a perpetual digital footprint that is hard to remove.  Information shared online can also be misused by third parties, and provides the materials for identity thefts, cyberbullying or doxxing.
 
The Guidance recommends that users of social media should:

  • take steps to understand how social media platforms handle their personal data by examining the privacy policies.  Whenever there are any changes in the privacy policies, the users should clearly understand the relevant changes before they accept the changes;
  • regularly review their privacy settings to retain control over what information will be disclosed to other users and how widely the information is disclosed;
  • limit the permissions granted to social media platforms on how their personal data, such as facial images and location data, can be used;
  • think twice before they share or send any information on social media;
  • respect other people’s privacy and be cautious about tagging other people in photos or sharing information about other people; and
  • be vigilant about online scams, such as malicious hyperlinks that request the users to “log-in” or provide personal data.

 
Recognising that children usually are not able to identify the risks of giving away too much personal data online or spot online scams, the Guidance advises users of social media to be extra cautious about sharing photos and information of children. Parents and guardians are advised to provide guidance to their children on the smart use of social media.
 
A “Step-by-Step Guide on Adjusting Privacy Settings” is appended at the Annex to the Guidance.  It outlines the steps users can follow in order to adjust some common privacy settings via the operating systems of mobile phones, or by directly adjusting the settings in the social media apps.
 
The “Guidance on Protecting Personal Data Privacy in the Use of Social Media and Instant Messaging Apps” can be downloaded at the PCPD’s website.

-End-