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defined in section 3 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap 1):

“person” includes any public body and any body of persons, corporate or unincorporate,

and this definition shall apply notwithstanding that the word ‘person’ occurs in a provision

creating or relating to an offence or for the recovery of any fine or compensation.


The term “public body” is, in turn, defined in section 3 of Cap 1 as follows:

“public body” includes –

(a) the Executive Council;

(b) the Legislative Council;

. . .

(ca) any District Council;

. . .

(d) any other urban, rural or municipal council;

(e) any department of the Government; and

(f) any undertaking by or of the Government.


The Government as a whole is in possession of a substantial amount of personal data in

relation to the residents of Hong Kong. Such data has been collected and is retained by

various government bureaux and departments, according to their respective functions,

such as law enforcement, revenue, social welfare, medical services etc.


In light of the wide definitions of the terms “data user”, “person” and “public body”, such

terms may be interpreted to refer to either individual government bureaux and

departments as separate data users, or the entire Government (being a body of persons)

collectively as one single data user. However, in view of the vast array of functions the

Government performs in relation to individual residents which involve the collection and

use of personal data, the collective interpretation would effectively empower the

Government to collect, virtually without limitation as to the scope of the personal data,

and the exchange of such data among its various bureaux and departments. This would

give rise to an anomalous result contrary to one of the principal tenets of the Ordinance,

namely, to protect the personal data privacy of individuals by reference to the purpose

of collection of the data and its intended use by the relevant data user in relation to

that purpose.


Hence, so far as the relationship between the Government and residents is concerned,

the operational stance taken by the Commissioner is to interpret such terms to refer to

each individual government bureau and department as a separate data user.


Accordingly, under DPP1(1), a government department is not allowed to collect

personal data in excess of that required for its own function and activity (as opposed to

those of other government departments).

Furthermore, the transfer of data amongst


There may, however, be certain exceptions to this general rule, including, for example, the case of a civil servant who is

posted to different departments from time to time. In this situation, the government as a whole may be regarded as the

data user of personal data about the civil servant relating to his employment.