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Hong Kong Leader Dismisses Big Tech Fears Over Privacy Law


Carrie Lam says the new law must go ahead but her government is willing to talk to tech companies about their concerns. File photo: AFP.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech majors fear city’s new law against ‘doxxing’ may leave companies or their employees open to prosecution

 

(AF) Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has brushed off a warning by tech giants such as Google and Facebook that they may quit the financial hub if officials proceed with a new privacy law.

City authorities plan to pass a new law against “doxxing” – publishing someone’s private details online so they can be harassed by others.

Major tech companies are concerned at the broad wording of the proposed legislation, as they fear it may hold them or their employees open to be prosecuted for users’ content.

These concerns were laid out in a letter sent to Hong Kong’s government by the Asia Internet Coalition, which includes tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Apple.

“Introducing sanctions aimed at individuals is not aligned with global norms and trends,” the six-page letter from AIC managing director Jeff Paine, dated 25 June but made public this week, warned.

“The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong, thereby depriving Hong Kong businesses and consumers, whilst also creating new barriers to trade,” it added.

During anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, doxxing – or releasing private or identifying information about a person or organisation – came under scrutiny when police were targeted after their details were released online. 

The details of some officers’ home addresses and children’s schools were also exposed by anti-government protesters, some of who threatened them and their families online.

The Internet Coalition acknowledged that doxxing “is a matter of serious concern”. But it said: “We … believe that any anti-doxxing legislation, which can have the effect of curtailing free expression, must be built upon principles of necessity and proportionality.”

Asked about the matter on Tuesday, the city’s leader Carrie Lam dismissed their concerns.

“We are targeting illegal doxxing and empowering the privacy commissioners to investigate and carry out operations, that’s it,” she told reporters.

Lam likened the new data privacy powers to a national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last year to stamp out dissent after huge and often violent democracy protests in 2019.

Lam said that security law had been “slandered and defamed”.

“It’s the same case for the privacy law,” she said.

But she said the city’s privacy commission would be happy to meet with representatives of tech companies to discuss their concerns, although she noted that her government was determined to press ahead with the new law.

This report was updated with reporting by AFP and Reuters

 

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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.

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