Hong Kong police made 5,325 user data disclosure requests and 4,175 information removal requests to ICT companies last year, according to government data. Both figures marked a significant increase from 3,440 and 38, respectively, in 2018.
Mass demonstrations and unrest erupted last June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. The pro-democracy movement – which lacked any centralised leadership – used tech-savvy digital means to coordinate, evaluate tactics and disseminate information online.
Responding to a question from IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok, the government – which does not actively publish statistics – issued a statement from newly-appointed Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit on Wednesday.
According to the data, the force made 2,181 requests to local and foreign service providers for “users’ information” from January to June, followed by 3,144 from July to December last year. The data was for the purpose of “crime prevention and detection” related to technology and internet use. The combined figure marked a 55 per cent rise from the year before.
Police made an additional 180 requests to providers to remove “users’ information” from January to June, followed by a sharp surge to 3,995 from July to December last year – more than 100 times higher than the year before.
The increase coincided with a hike in the number of complaints over “doxxing” – the practice of sharing personal information about selected groups without a person’s consent, including officers and journalists.
The request figures from police scored higher than all other government departments.