As the number of complaints received by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) hit a record high, businesses and other organisations have been urged to take steps to ensure the proper handling and protection of personal data.

According to figures released on Monday, the PCPD received a record 1,971 complaints in 2015 – a 16 percent rise from the 1,702 complaints received in 2014. 74 percent of the complaints – amounting to 1,461 cases – were made against the private sector, with the finance sector receiving the most complaints, with 390 cases. Of the total complaints, 40 percent related to the use of personal data without the consent of data subjects, while 37 percent related to the purpose and manner of data collection.

Stephen Wong Kai-yi
Stephen Wong Kai-yi. Photo: GovHK.

There has also been an upward trend in privacy complaints relating to information and communications technology. Another record was broken, with 241 complaints received in 2015, most of which were common privacy disputes arising from the use of mobile apps and social networking websites, the disclosure or leakage of personal data on the Internet, and cyber-bullying.

Major incidents, last year, cited by the PCPD include the revelation that the usage of contactless credit cards could lead to personal data leakages, scam phone calls asking for personal information, concerns over children’s privacy that arose out of video clips of students appearing online without their consent, and so on.

The PCPD is raising awareness of issues such as digital footprints and privacy of children. Photo: Stand News.

Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Stephen Wong Kai-yi said on Monday that the record high number of privacy complaints indicated an increase in public awareness about personal data privacy protection.

“The rapid development of [information and communications technology], the use of big data and cloud computing will further change the ways that individuals’ personal data is collected, retained and used. The recent data leakage incidents involve voluminous personal data and are largely attributable to internet security issues,” Wong said.

“I appeal to all businesses and organisations to ensure the proper handling and disposal of personal data collected, and to take all practical steps to safeguard personal data from unauthorised or accidental access, processing, erasure, loss or use.”

According to Wong, Hong Kong was the first jurisdiction in Asia to have a dedicated piece of legislation on personal data privacy 20 years ago. Wong said that the city should keep up with the developments and changes in the area in order to uphold its position as an international business centre that enjoys a free flow of information.

Wong also said that the European Commission agreed on a comprehensive data protection reform through the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation, strengthening online privacy rights in the digital age, on December 15 last year, and the PCPD will be closely monitoring its progress.

Karen cheung hong kong

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.