Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner has said that the number of new doxxing cases has dropped in comparison to the first three months of the city’s pro-democracy protests.

Doxxing refers to the practice of sharing personal information about selected groups online without a person’s consent. Since June, protesters, journalists, government supporters and the police have been targeted.

Stephen Wong Kai-yi. File Photo: GovHK.

In September, pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily obtained an injunction to ban disclosure of staff personal data. In November, police also obtained a similar injunction to stop the doxxing of its officers and their families.

Stephen Wong, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, said his office has received around 4,700 complaints since June, however, the rate of doxxing cases reported has slowed down “a little bit” in recent months.

“We received fewer cases than before. But it doesn’t mean that we will stop our investigation efforts. We made great efforts in tracking down the doxxers and also requesting the social platforms to assist by pulling down all the messages, especially the messages that were incriminating,” he said, on the sidelines of a public forum on Wednesday.

He added that his office has found it difficult to track down doxxers because many of them operate anonymously.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Wong said that his office has written to 16 social media platforms requesting the removal of personal data. “Around 70 per cent of the links have been removed. Of those, 70 per cent were related to police officers,” he said.

He added that his office has asked the overseas government privacy agencies to help coordinate removal efforts on international platforms. “We have received encouraging responses,” he said.

Stand News journalist Ronson Chan’s Hong Kong identity card displayed by a police officer in front of a live streaming camera. Photo: Stand News.

Last month, a police officer displayed Stand News journalist Ronson Chan’s identity card and press pass in front of a live-streaming camera during a stop and search. The force has said the incident is under investigation.

Wong said that unless a complaint has been lodged, he does not have the power to initiate an investigation into the disclosure of personal data related to news reporting owing to press freedom.

But he said he has the power and responsibility to investigate Chan’s case because the person who disclosed the personal data was a police officer, despite the absence of a complaint. “It is difficult to conclude that the police officer was carrying out press activities,” he said.

Wong said the journalist did not consent to have his personal data shared publicly by the officer.

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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.