Vehicle cameras that film passengers have come under scrutiny after a newspaper published intimate footage showing Hong Kong singer Andy Hui and actress Jacqueline Wong.
On Tuesday, Chinese-language tabloid Apple Daily released a 16-minute video showing the pair kissing and cuddling in the backseat of a moving car. Hui has since publicly apologised for being unfaithful to his wife, Cantopop star Sammi Cheng, adding that he was a “rotten person.”
While many in the city were gripped by Hui and Wong’s infidelity, others focused on the culpability of Apple Daily and the video’s creator. It remains unclear who created and supplied the video to the newspaper, and whether it was filmed in a taxi, hire car or private vehicle.
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying questioned whether the newspaper had broken any laws, and demanded answers from the Hong Kong Bar Association and the Hong Kong Journalists Association.
“Apple Daily is openly offering money for photos and videos. Is this the function of the media?” Leung wrote on Facebook. “Even if the incident involved legitimate spouses or partners, as long as they are celebrities and public figures, video or audio clips secretly recorded by the taxi driver can still be sold for cash.”
Separately, Leung has also been criticising Apple Daily for running an “immoral” opinion column about a Chinese official. For over a month he has been naming-and-shaming companies that advertised in its pages.
Hong Kong’s privacy watchdog told HKFP that a taxi was defined as a semi-private place, in contrast to other modes of public transport.
“If a camera is installed inside a taxi to collect the image or audio of passengers, and if the recorded image can be used to identify individuals, then the taxi driver or company must follow the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and its six data protection principles,” said the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD).
The principles include: ensuring that the data collection was necessary, proportionate, fair, lawful and that the passengers were notified of the data collection in a practical way. Since the start of 2017, the PCPD received 16 inquiries about video-recording in taxis.
“If such videos were used for a purpose not originally intended, such as dissemination on the internet, then it would be a breach of the passengers’ privacy,” the statement continued.
The PCPD can issue enforcement notices to the offenders asking them to stop. Any person who does not comply with such a notice faces a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and a two-year jail sentence.
Any person who suspects that their privacy has been breached can complain to the PCPD, the watchdog said, adding: “If anyone believes that the breach in their personal data privacy has caused a loss – including emotional loss – they can seek compensation from the data user under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.”
Lawyer Craig Choy from the Progressive Lawyers Group agreed that the incident may have breached the law, and called for greater enforcement powers for the PCPD.
Taxi drivers affected
Speaking on a radio programme on Wednesday, the head of the Hong Kong Taxi Council said that taxi drivers installed cameras to protect themselves in case of complaints.
“There are numerous complaints against taxi drivers… but a lot of drivers say they feel wronged by unscrupulous passengers,” said Hung Wing-tat. “A CCTV camera is most fair, and we can see who was in the wrong.”
“Most cameras [in taxis] are installed in the rear and only point towards the passengers’ backs,” he added. If it were true that the video of Hui and Wong originated from a taxi, then the driver was a “bad apple that damaged the industry reputation.”
Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam called for security measures to prevent taxi drivers from accessing passengers’ personal data.
“Average passengers cannot trust that taxi drivers will never leak the video footage… drivers have a lot of incentive to share videos with others,” he said. “I’ve always been opposed to vehicle cameras [targeting passengers] in this form.”
Tam suggested that video clips could be stored in an encrypted memory stick which is only accessible by law enforcement agencies.
The Hong Kong Free Press #PressForFreedom 2019 Funding Drive seeks to raise HK$1.2m to support our non-profit newsroom and dedicated team of multi-media, multi-lingual reporters. HKFP is backed by readers, run by journalists and is immune to political and commercial pressure. This year’s critical fundraiser will provide us with the essential funds to continue our work into next year.