Hong Kong’s Memory Hole

The right to privacy is usurping the public right to know in Asia’s financial hub.

Financial hubs depend on the free flow of information, and nowhere more so than in Hong Kong, gateway to the opaque China market. So a recent case in which an appeals board upheld the censorship of a court judgment to protect the supposed privacy rights of the litigants sets a bad precedent. The territory is following Europe’s lead toward extreme privacy protection at the expense of access to information.

“The right to be forgotten affects more than media freedom. It prevents investors and entrepreneurs from conducting due diligence and managing business risks, and helps people hide from public scrutiny. That may be good for the reputations of the rich and powerful, but it will hurt Hong Kong’s reputation for transparency.”

Luciana Wong Wai-lan, who now serves on several government advisory panels, participated in a matrimonial case in the early 2000s. In 2010 Ms. Wong requested that the court remove the judgments from its online reference system. The court made them anonymous, but hyperlinks to the judgments placed on the website of local shareholder activist David Webb still revealed her name.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Ms. Wong wrote to Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner for personal data in 2013, and the commissioner ordered Mr. Webb to remove the links pursuant to Data Protection Principle 3 (DPP3) of the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance. The 1996 law requires personal data to be used only for the purposes for which it was collected. Mr. Webb argued that the law had been misapplied, but an administrative board denied his appeal last month, even though Ms. Wong had withdrawn her claim.

Mr. Webb warned that the decision is a backdoor way to introduce the “right to be forgotten”—the idea, pioneered in Europe….(read more)

Source: WSJ



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