Robin McLeish and Graham Greenleaf INTRODUCTION Data Spills on the Hong Kong Internet In March 2006 personal data, including names, addresses, Hong Kong ID card numbers and in some cases details of criminal convictions, of an estimated 20,000 people who had made formal complaints against the Hong Kong police since 1996 were found on an unprotected web site in Hong Kong. The more serious complaints against the police included allegations of sexual assault, fraud and corruption, and seven complaints were still under investigation. People named in the list have described the disclosure as ‘a nightmare . . .’. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) claimed ‘thousands of people are living in fear’ as a result. Legislators claim that the disclosures, particularly of the HK ID card numbers which are widely used as an identity credential, are a ‘big threat’ to the financial interests of the persons concerned. This is the most dramatic privacy issue in Hong Kong’s history, in its combination of the number of people affected and the sensitivity of the data involved. The scandal erupted when a corporate governance activist accidently found the data when searching the internet for a person’s address. Hong Kong’s Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) admitted it was the source of the data, apparently uploaded to a server of a Hong Kong company by a contractor to the IPCC who was transferring data from one IPCC computer to another. The data had been accessible on the web for three years. Two days after its exposure...
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