A Hong Kong police officer who showed a reporter’s ID card on a news live stream during a protest last December was in breach of privacy laws, according to a report by the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data released Tuesday. Police said they accepted the findings.

The incident happened during a pro-democracy protest at Tai Po Mega Mall on December 26 last year, when an officer showed a StandNews reporter’s identity card to his live stream, exposing his personal details to viewers.

Photo: StandNews.

“By displaying the personal data on the Reporter’s ID card in front of the Reporter’s camera, the Police Officer’s disclosure of the personal data of the Reporter was not consistent with or directly related to the purpose of conducting the stop-and-search procedure to verify the Reporter’s identity,” the report read.

The action was a breach of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, it added.

The report dismissed the possible reasons the officers had for showing the ID as irrelevant: “This is irrespective of whether or not the Police Officer intended to let the Reporter confirm that the ID card belonged to him.”

“This report serves as a reminder for frontline police officers to respect and protect
the personal data of the persons under search, including the personal data on ID
cards,” the report said in a recommendation to the force.

Photo: Rhoda Kwan/HKFP.

The commissioner’s office forwarded three other recommendations, including revising the force’s procedures manual and conducting “risk assessment” on actual front-line situations to “devise clear guidelines” to ensure officers protect personal data.

“The Commissioner encourages the Police to continue to strengthen its training and establish a culture of respect for personal data privacy, with a view to further enhancing the professional image and service quality of the Police,” the report listed as its fourth recommendation.

The incident last December saw officers indiscriminately deploying pepper spray against protesters, affecting their fellow colleagues.

‘Shortcoming’

The force announced it accepted the commissioner’s findings, adding that the officer in question has been “rebuked” and that it will follow up with a disciplinary hearing.

“Police agree that there was shortcoming for the officer concerned to display the identity card of the relevant reporter during the incident. Police have rebuked the involved officer and will conduct disciplinary review with reference to the contents of the investigation report,” a statement said.

Photo: Aaron Guy Leroux/Sipa USA

It said police attach “great importance” to the privacy of personal data and “are committed to complying” with the ordinance.

“Police accept the views presented in the investigation report and will follow up the four proposed recommendations,” a spokesperson said.

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.