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 issued the “Guidance on Protecting Personal Data Privacy in the Use of Social Media and Instant Messaging Apps” (Guidance) on 5 April 2021, 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. 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.
Here are some tips for users of social media:
- Take steps to understand how social media platforms handle 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 the privacy settings to retain control over what information and how widely information will be disclosed.
- Limit the permissions granted to social media platforms on how the personal data, such as facial images and location data, can be used.
- Think twice before sharing or sending 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.
- Be vigilant about online scams, such as malicious hyperlinks that request the users to “log-in” or provide personal data.
For more detailed advice on how to protect your personal data privacy in the use of social media and a “Step-by-Step Guide on Adjusting Privacy Settings”, check out the Guidance at the PCPD website.