HK's privacy watchdog completes investigation on Octopus, seeks tighter law

19:55, October 18, 2010      

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The city's leading e-payment operator Octopus holdings, which had admitted to sell about 2 million customers' personal data to business partners, violated the principles of personal data protection, said Hong Kong's privacy watchdog, which is seeking tighter law and larger power to protect the public's privacy.

Releasing his investigation report on the issue on Monday, the city's Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Allan Chiang said the company collected excessive and unnecessary personal data, and did not take appropriate measures to inform customers where their personal data will be transferred to.

The company also sold the data to its business partners without obtaining customers' clear and voluntary consent, he added.

Octopus promised to delete excessive and unnecessary data collected under the program in two months' time. Personal data which has been sold to the company's five business partners will also be deleted. It will redesign the customer declaration form to make it more readable and give clearer definitions of data transferees.

Chiang said he decided not to issue an enforcement notice to Octopus because the company pledged not make the same mistakes again.

He also noted that the existing ordinance is inadequate to protect privacy because the commissioner has no power to penalize people or organizations violating the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

Noting the Hong Kong government will soon propose amending the ordinance, the commissioner called on stakeholders and the public to discuss the issue.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is working with the city's privacy watchdog to table new legislation in an attempt to better protect the public as soon as possible.

Recent investigation against the Octopus group of companies in relation to the management of customers' personal data brought public awareness of their personal data privacy rights to an unprecedentedly high level in Hong Kong.

Octopus Card, the city's mass transit refill cards, is widely used in the city to pay public transportation fares, as well as retailers who accept Octopus, such as convenience stores or restaurants.

Octopus Holdings had admitted earlier that the Octopus Rewards scheme, launched four years ago and operated by two subsidiaries Octopus Rewards and Octopus Connect, sold the data of 1.97 million customers to its six partners in the scheme.

Some 95 percent of people in Hong Kong aged 16 to 65 uses Octopus to travel, shop and dine, and over 2.4 million customers have registered for the widely adopted Octopus Rewards program, said Octopus Holdings on its website.

Source: Xinhua


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