The police filed 3,997 requests for information disclosure to internet service providers in 2015, the highest number among all government departments. The statistics were released by the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) upon request of IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok.
Mok said that it is the first time in five years that the Hong Kong government has released a complete data set.
Responding to HKFP by email, Mok said that the government should be more transparent: “There is still no mechanism to gauge whether these requests are well founded, and the government only released these figures when the LegCo requested them… The ITB claims to coordinate technology issues among different bureaus, it should improve its transparency and openness by doing so regularly and proactively.”
‘Crime prevention and detection’
According to the ITB, police made 2,205 and 1,792 requests for user information in the first and second half of 2015 respectively, for the purpose of crime prevention and detection, primarily involving technology crimes or crimes relating to the use of the internet. Each request corresponds to one item of information and one user account only. The ITB did not state which service providers were being approached, only that they included providers both in Hong Kong and abroad.
The ITB did not disclose how many requests were successful, only that – in some cases – user accounts or records that did not exist were involved. In some cases, the service providers were unable to provide information as the registered user or IP address was not in Hong Kong.
The ITB also failed to disclose how many requests were made under a court order.
The statistics released also showed that police filed around 4,000 requests each year for user information between 2011 and 2014.
The police also made 96 requests for information removal to service providers in 2015, also for crime prevention, mainly involving obscene articles, phishing websites and accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent.
Most of the organisations concerned removed the information as requested by the police.
Last month, technology company Google said in a report that the police requested it to remove a video posted online which showed apparent police brutality. The video apparently showed officers assaulting a person under arrest in a police vehicle. Google did not take it down.
The data set also included details of requests from the Office of the Communications Authority, the Department of Health, the Customs and Excise Department, among others.