Popular forums and news sites are not protecting the privacy of people who give away their data, an internet activist group has warned.

Keyboard Frontline said just four of the nine popular forums and news sites stated that they would only provide users’ personal information if forced to do so by a court order. The group said currently there are no laws giving the police powers to order the websites to provide data.

The police requested 1,156 users’ personal information and 101 deletions of data from the websites from October 2014 to January 2015, during the pro-democracy occupy protest. The Customs and Excise Department and the Independent Commission Against Corruption were the other two agencies that made the most data requests. The group said only two websites, Memehk and Inmedia, would ask the agencies to disclose the purpose of requesting personal data.

Glacier Kwong of Keyboard Frontline (middle). Photo: Keyboard Frontline.

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said: “the industry is developing a set of forms that would be used for law enforcement agencies to answer questions as to whether a search warrant or a court order was in place when they requested information. However, the police and the customs have still not accepted the suggestion.”

The group also was also worried that websites asked for excessive personal information for marketing purposes.

Among the forums, Baby Kingdom asks for the largest amount of information, including full name, birthday, marital status, number of children, annual family income and phone number.

HKGolden requests users to provide an email address registered at internet service providers or universities.

Keyboard Frontline spokeswoman Glacier Kwong Chung-ching said: “Netizens should urge websites to have a detailed and precise personal information collection policy, and publish transparency reports to confirm how the data collected were used.”

The nine websites surveyed were Baby Kingdom, HK Discuss, HKEPC, HKGalden, HKGolden, Inmedia HK, Memehk, Sina Weibo and Uwants.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.