US video conferencing platform Zoom has told HKFP on Tuesday that the company has suspended its compliance with data requests from the Hong Kong authorities. It is the latest tech firm to state that it will temporarily refuse to share user data following the enactment of the controversial national security law.

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Zoom. Photo: May James/HKFP.

“Zoom supports the free and open exchange of thoughts and ideas. We are proud to facilitate meaningful conversations and professional collaboration around the world. We’re actively monitoring the developments in Hong Kong SAR, including any potential guidance from the U.S. government. We have paused processing any data requests from, and related to, Hong Kong SAR,” a spokesperson for Zoom told HKFP on Tuesday.

Other global communications platforms including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram have also suspended their compliance with data requests.

LinkedIn, a professional networking site owned by Microsoft, told a Quartz reporter on Tuesday that the platform has paused their responses to Hong Kong law enforcement requests whilst it reviews the new security legislation.

China concerns

Zoom came under fire last month after for suspending the accounts of Hong Kong pro-democracy figure Lee Cheuk-yan and disrupting the Tiananmen Massacre online commemoration meetings.

The company, which reached over 200 million daily meeting participants in March, has been widely criticised for their data privacy and security issues. Media reports have revealed that the platform sends user data to Facebook for advertising purposes and had wrongly claimed that calls were encrypted.

Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan apologised in April, saying the company had “fallen short” of privacy and security expectations. He pledged to “proactively” identify, address and fix the issues, while enhancing the company’s transparency.

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File Photo: May James/HKFP.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong police won new powers to conduct searches at private properties without a warrant, restrict suspects’ movements, freeze their assets, intercept communications and require internet service providers to remove information

According to the legislation, police may require service providers to provide relevant identification records or decryption assistance. Any service provider who fails to comply with the requests is liable upon conviction to a fine of HK$100,000 and six months behind bars.

HKFP has reached out to the owners of Skype, Microsoft, for comment.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.