Despite the concerns raised by big tech companies operating in the city, Hong Kong still insists on pushing through with the proposed changes to its privacy law. The new law on privacy law focuses on publishing people’s personal information maliciously online, also known as doxing.
Consequently, an industry group has raised its concerns with the new law. According to these entities, the law would see the exit of big technology companies from the city in fear of facing liability over user content. In response to their fears, Carrie Lam, a Hong Kong leader, says they would meet these companies to address their grievances.
On June 5th, Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a Singapore-based company, dispatched a letter to Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data. On the letter, which was just made public a few days later, the coalition expressed its concerns with the new law terming it as being too broad. Among the member of this coalition include the world’s big tech companies: Apple, Twitter, Google, and Facebook.
In this letter, the coalition says, “The local staff of overseas platforms in Hong Kong are not responsible for the operations of the platforms; neither do they…have access right or control to administer the online platform contents.”
The letter further states, “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.”
The government department, however, responded by saying that the law would only apply to unlawful doxing. Nonetheless, the Asia Internet Coalition speaking to a news broadcaster, said that the letter was specific to any company, and none of its members had any intentions of leaving Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Chief executive has dismissed any concerns. Speaking to reporters at a weekly briefing, Ms Lam said, “We are targeting illegal doxing and empowering the privacy commissioners to investigate and carry out operations, that’s it.” The leader also affirmed the government’s intention to pursue the new policy
The new privacy law proposed changes
May this year, the government gave a heads up on their plans to change their privacy laws. These changes came about following the pro-democracy protests in 2019, whereby doxing was rampantly used.
In this case, officers involved in the online crackdown of the protests were named. These also included police officers and court officials working on legal cases involving the prosecution of activists, journalists and protestors.
The new privacy law bans doxing and equips government authorities with power over personal information on websites and social media. As a result, legal entities would force companies to pull down specific personal information from their platforms.
This comes days after Apple Daily one of Hong Kong’s most extensive pro-democracy paper, announces its closure. Despite being in the first world, the city continues to face battles of freedom with recurrent protests over the government regulations. For instance, the National security law introduced last year raised many controversies from the pro-democracy activists. These activists feel that the government infringes on the freedoms its citizens and returns the state back 20 years to British rule. However, China still believes it is on the right track of independence and freedom.