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October 28 2013

In Hong Kong, When Is Public Data Actually Private Data?

"The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) has issued an enforcement notice to stop a company from supplying data on individuals obtained from publicly available litigation and bankruptcy records via a smartphone application, claiming that the company ""seriously invaded"" the privacy of those individuals. Various commentators have accused the PCPD of threatening freedom of information, making inconsistent decisions, and being technophobic, while others argue that the decision highlights the limitations of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO), which governs the use of personal data in Hong Kong. The offending application allowed users to search a database of publicly available records of civil and criminal litigation and bankruptcy cases by an individual 's name or address in order to carry out simple due diligence and background checks. The basic position in Hong Kong is that while an individual 's personal data may be obtained from a source in the public domain, that does not mean that the individual has given his blanket consent for use of that personal data for other purposes. Anyone who collects and uses personal data from the public domain must observe the requirements of the PDPO. To assist data users to comply with the requirements of the PDPO, the PCPD has issued a new guidance note on the Use of Personal Data Obtained from the Public Domain."