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automatically hide the data. It also adjusted the height and angle of the computer

screens to make them less visible to bystanders. Notwithstanding the taking of these

measures, the Commissioner was not satisfied that they could effectively prevent the

unauthorised or accidental access to the personal data shown on the screen. An

enforcement notice was served on the company directing it to remodel the design of its

computer terminals so that the personal data displayed on the computer screens could

not be viewed by passers-by.


(d) Legal Practitioners


Personal data handled by solicitors is very often sensitive, for example, personal data

used for litigation purposes, property transactions and matrimonial matters. Whilst

solicitors are already bound by a duty to keep all information concerning their clients

confidential, they should also take extra care and precaution to prevent any personal

data used for the provision of legal services from being accessed by unauthorised



In one case,


a law firm arranged a messenger to serve legal documents relating to a

divorce suit on a party to the proceedings at her office. The documents were placed

inside a sealed envelope but there was a duplicate of the documents for the addressee

to sign and acknowledge receipt. Since the duplicate documents were uncovered, the

contents were read by the receptionist and other people passing by. The addressee of

the documents was upset as her involvement in the divorce proceedings was as a result

disclosed to others in the office. Upon enquiry made by the Commissioner, the law firm

argued that only the front page of the duplicate documents containing the names of

the parties and the suit number of the divorce proceedings were disclosed. The

Commissioner observed that these documents contained personal data of a sensitive

nature to the data subject, particularly in her workplace. The way that these documents

were served made it possible for such personal data to be disclosed to unnecessary

parties and caused distress to the complainant. The law firm was found to have

contravened DPP4.


A similar situation relating to the service of legal documents was also considered by the



In this case, the complainant specified a business centre’s address as

her correspondence address. A messenger of a law firm delivered a letter to the

complainant at the business centre’s address by hand. The receptionist called the

complainant and read out part of the contents of the letter over the telephone to the

complainant. The complainant complained to the Commissioner that the letter

containing her personal data, including reference to Court actions involving the

complainant, was unnecessarily disclosed by the law firm to the receptionist and the


See Case Note No. 2009C09, available on the Website:



See Case Note No. 1997C18, available on the Website:



See Case Note No. 2009A03, available on the Website: