You might not have paid recent attention to the privacy rules in Hong Kong. That is unless of course you have been served with an enforcement notice by the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (the “Commissioner”), or you have failed to comply with such an enforcement notice. Section 50B of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (“PDPO”) came into force on 1 October 2012, but it seems that the Hong Kong Police and Courts have only recently started to take this section seriously.
The PDPO came into force in 1996, but it was only in 2014, the first individual received a jail sentence for breach of section 50B(1)(c)(i) of PDPO. That was as a result of making a false statement to the Commissioner.
30th June 2017, was the first time that a company director was convicted his offence being the failure to comply with a lawful requirement of the Commissioner in breaching section 50B(1)(b) of PDPO.
In that case, a complaint was lodged with the Commissioner’s office against an employment agency in which had allegedly transferred personal data to a third party, without consent, while the employment agency was assisting the complainant in recruiting a foreign domestic helper.
Despite repeated written and telephone requests for the information needed to enable there to a proper investigation of the complaint, the employment agency failed to respond.
The sole director of the employment agency even ignored a Summons issued by the Commissioner under section 44 of PDPO requiring him to attend at a specified date and time for examination. The case was then referred by the Commissioner’s office to the Hong Kong Police, which then led to the prosecution.
Both those decisions show that the Commissioner is recommending more cases for prosecution.
Indeed, the Commissioner has recently stated ‘The conviction serves as a strong deterrent to remind all organisations and individuals to abide by the law and treat personal data privacy seriously.’
Apart from noting the importance of compliance with lawful requirement of the Commissioner, one should also be reminded that full co-operation is crucial, as any obstruction, hinderance or resistance, without lawful excuse, to the Commissioner or a prescribed officer in performing their functions may also result in a conviction, and in imprisonment (section 50B(1)(a) of PDPO).
OLN’s Digital Business Group regularly advises clients on the impact of data privacy legislation in Hong Kong.