Govt to ease fears over doxxing law, says Carrie Lam

Authorities are willing to explain the proposed anti-doxxing legislation further to alleviate anxieties from IT giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said.

Privacy commissioner Ada Chung Lai-ling will meet with the representatives of an alliance which included the companies shortly to better understand their views, her office said.

Lam told the media before the executive council meeting that the amendment on the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance targets illegal doxxing behaviors, as many people were traumatized by these doxxing acts for a long time in the past.

She said the worries over the proposed anti-doxxing ordinance will fade away once the legislation has come into effect.

“Every piece of legislation, including the national security law, will draw concern and anxieties. Certainly, during the legislation process, it will be good if these concerns and worries can be addressed as much as possible,” she said.

“But sometimes we need the facts, meaning the implementation, to speak for themselves,” Lam added, citing the introduction of the national security law as an example. “In fact, none of the things people have said in the beginning to smear the national security law have happened.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data acknowledged that they have received the letter but rejected claims that the amended ordinance would hinder free speech in the SAR.

“The amendments will not have any bearing on free speech,” the spokeswoman of the office said. “The PCPD reiterates that the amendments only concern unlawful doxxing acts and the PCPD’s related enforcement powers,”

“The scope of the doxxing offence will be clearly set out in the Amendments. The PCPD strongly rebuts any suggestion that the amendments may in any way affect foreign investment in Hong Kong,” she added.

The responses came after a letter sent by the Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition on June 25, which warned that its members might stop offering their services in Hong Kong if authorities continue with the amendment of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

“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 alliance said.

The Asia Internet Coalition — established in 2010 — aims at promoting the understanding and resolution of internet policy issues in the Asia Pacific region. The alliance currently has 15 members, including Facebook, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter.

The group said they understand the amendments emphasize on safety and individuals’ personal data privacy. “We also believe that any anti-doxxing legislation, which can have the effect of curtailing free expression, must be built upon principles of necessity and proportionality.”

They suggested Hong Kong authorities have a clearer definition on doxxing acts, as well as excluding intermediaries and their subsidiaries from the scope of “persons” and “premises” that can be investigated and prosecuted by the privacy watchdog.

Wong Ho-wa, a member of the election committee in the IT subsector, explains Hongkongers will still be able to use services of the three tech companies that moved their operations out of Hong Kong. Google services provided to Hongkongers are from overseas servers, he illustrated.

“I think, in the short run, the things that the public are afraid of like no access to Google services, Facebook and WhatsApp will not happen,” he said on a radio program.

“The worst case is that these companies may move to Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea or Japan in the future,”Wong said, adding that the tech companies feared the firms and their staff based locally will be investigated and prosecuted for doxing offenses by their users.

He said authorities should provide a clear definition to what kinds of acts would constitute the “weaponization of personal data,” to alleviate the concerns of the public and tech companies.

The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau proposed amendments to data-protection laws in May, saying there is a need to combat doxxing.

Some of the amendments include introducing a doxxing offense under section 64 of the privacy ordinance and granting new powers to the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data to conduct criminal investigation.

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