Asia industry group warns privacy law changes may force tech firms to quit Hong Kong

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Reuters 05 July, 2021 - 11:52am 25 views

July 5 (Reuters) - An Asian industry group that includes Google (GOOGL.O), Facebook (FB.O) and Twitter (TWTR.N) has warned that tech companies could stop offering their services in Hong Kong if the Chinese territory proceeds with plans to change privacy laws.

The warning came in a letter sent by the Asia Internet Coalition, of which all three companies, in addition to Apple Inc , LinkedIn and others, are members.

Proposed amendments to privacy laws in Hong Kong could see individuals hit with "severe sanctions", said the June 25 letter to the territory's privacy commissioner for personal data, Ada Chung Lai-ling, without specifying what the sanctions would be.

"Introducing sanctions aimed at individuals is not aligned with global norms and trends," added the letter, whose contents were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

"The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong, thereby depriving Hong Kong businesses and consumers, whilst also creating new barriers to trade."

In the six-page letter, AIC managing director Jeff Paine acknowledged the proposed amendments focus on the safety and personal data privacy of individuals. "However, we wish to stress that doxxing is a matter of serious concern," he wrote.

During anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, doxxing - or publicly releasing private or identifying information about an individual or organisation - came under scrutiny when police were targeted after their details were released online.

The details of some officers' home addresses and children's schools were also exposed by anti-government protesters, some of who threatened them and their families online.

"We ... believe that any anti-doxxing legislation, which can have the effect of curtailing free expression, must be built upon principles of necessity and proportionality," the AIC said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, while Twitter referred questions to the AIC.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of continued freedoms. Pro-democracy activists say those freedoms are being whittled away by Beijing, especially with a national security law introduced last year cracking down on dissent. China denies the charge.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel he hoped China and Europe would expand cooperation to better respond to global challenges, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

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Facebook, Twitter and Google threaten pulling from HK if anti-doxxing law passes

Hong Kong Standard 05 July, 2021 - 11:02am

Facebook, Twitter and Google have privately warned Hong Kong's privacy watchdog that they could pull their services from the city if authorities proceed with a planned legislation to penalize doxxing. 

An industry group that includes the internet firms said the companies are concerned the legislation could put their staff at risk of criminal investigations or prosecutions related to what the firms’ users post online, Wall Street Journal reported. 

Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau announced in May that it would like to create an offense of doxxing by amending the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. The amendment bill is expected to be submitted to the Legislative Council within this legislative year, which ends in December. 

Under the proposal, a person will commit an offense when disclosing a person's personal data without his or her consent, with the intention to threaten, intimidate or harass the person or immediate family members. 

It is also an offense to spread such personal data with the intention of causing psychological harm to a person or his family. 

People convicted of the offense would face up to five years' imprisonment and a HK$1 million fine.

“The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering the services in Hong Kong,” said the letter sent from the Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition to Hong Kong's privacy commissioner. 

Jeff Paine, the Asia Internet Coalition’s managing director, said the group and its members are opposed to doxing. But the vague wording in the proposed amendments could mean the companies and their locally based employees could be subject to criminal investigations and prosecution for doxxing offenses by their users.

That would represent a “completely disproportionate and unnecessary response,” the letter stated. The letter also noted that the proposed amendments could curtail free expression and criminalize even “innocent acts of sharing information online.”

The coalition suggested a more clearly defined scope to violations should be considered.

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Asian industry group warns privacy law changes may force tech firms to stop offering services in Hong Kong

The Globe and Mail 05 July, 2021 - 08:11am

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An Asian industry group that includes Google, Facebook and Twitter has warned that tech companies could stop offering their services in Hong Kong if the Chinese territory proceeds with plans to change privacy laws.

The warning came in a letter sent by the Asia Internet Coalition, of which all three companies, in addition to Apple Inc , LinkedIn and others, are members.

Proposed amendments to privacy laws in Hong Kong could see individuals hit with “severe sanctions,” said the June 25 letter to the territory’s privacy commissioner for personal data, Ada Chung Lai-ling, without specifying what the sanctions would be.

“Introducing sanctions aimed at individuals is not aligned with global norms and trends,” added the letter, whose contents were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong, thereby depriving Hong Kong businesses and consumers, whilst also creating new barriers to trade.”

In the six-page letter, AIC managing director Jeff Paine acknowledged the proposed amendments focus on the safety and personal data privacy of individuals. “However, we wish to stress that doxxing is a matter of serious concern,” he wrote.

During anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, doxxing – or publicly releasing private or identifying information about an individual or organization – came under scrutiny when police were targeted after their details were released online.

The details of some officers’ home addresses and children’s schools were also exposed by anti-government protesters, some of who threatened them and their families online.

“We … believe that any anti-doxxing legislation, which can have the effect of curtailing free expression, must be built upon principles of necessity and proportionality,” the AIC said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, while Twitter referred questions to the AIC.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of continued freedoms. Pro-democracy activists say those freedoms are being whittled away by Beijing, especially with a national security law introduced last year cracking down on dissent. China denies the charge.

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Tech group warns HK privacy law changes may force members to stop investment

Reuters 05 July, 2021 - 08:10am

"Introducing sanctions aimed at individuals is not aligned with global norms and trends," AIC managing director Jeff Paine said in a letter seen by Reuters. "The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong."

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Chinese regulators have gained a reputation for aggressive action, but even hardened investors were shocked by the announcement of a probe into ride-hailing firm Didi (DIDI.N) just two days after its $4.4 billion New York stock market debut.

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Facebook, Twitter, Google threaten to quit Hong Kong over proposed data laws

Fox Business 05 July, 2021 - 06:25am

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Author and geopolitical analyst Brandon Weichert suggests China could gain economic dominance through technology production.

HONG KONG -- Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., and Alphabet Inc.'s Google have privately warned the Hong Kong government that they could stop offering their services in the city if authorities proceed with planned changes to data-protection laws that could make them liable for the malicious sharing of individuals' information online.

A letter sent by an industry group that includes the internet firms said companies are concerned that the planned rules to address doxing could put their staff at risk of criminal investigations or prosecutions related to what the firms' users post online. Doxing refers to the practice of putting people's personal information online so they can be harassed by others.

Hong Kong's Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in May proposed amendments to the city's data-protection laws that it said were needed to combat doxing, a practice that was prevalent during 2109 protests in the city. The proposals call for punishments of up to 1 million Hong Kong dollars, the equivalent of about $128,800, and up to five years' imprisonment.

"The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering the services in Hong Kong," said the previously unreported June 25 letter from the Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Tensions have emerged between some of the U.S.'s most powerful firms and Hong Kong authorities as Beijing exerts increasing control over the city and clamps down on political dissent. The American firms and other tech companies last year said they were suspending the processing of requests from Hong Kong law-enforcement agencies following China's imposition of a national security law on the city.

Jeff Paine, the Asia Internet Coalition's managing director, in the letter to Hong Kong's Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, said that while his group and its members are opposed to doxing, the vague wording in the proposed amendments could mean the firms and their staff based locally could be subject to criminal investigations and prosecution for doxing offenses by their users.

That would represent a "completely disproportionate and unnecessary response," the letter said. The letter also noted that the proposed amendments could curtail free expression and criminalize even "innocent acts of sharing information online."

The Coalition suggested that a more clearly defined scope to violations be considered and requested a videoconference to discuss the situation.

A spokeswoman for the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data acknowledged that the office had received the letter. She said new rules were needed to address doxing, which "has tested the limits of morality and the law."

The government has handled thousands of doxing-related cases since 2019, and surveys of the public and organizations show strong support for added measures to curb the practice, she said. Police officers and opposition figures were doxed heavily during months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.

"The amendments will not have any bearing on free speech," which is enshrined in law, and the scope of offenses are clearly set out in the amendments, the spokeswoman said. The government "strongly rebuts any suggestion that the amendments may in any way affect foreign investment in Hong Kong," she said.

Representatives for Facebook, Twitter and Google declined to comment on the letter beyond acknowledging that the Coalition had sent it. The companies don't disclose the number of employees they have in Hong Kong, but they likely employ at least 100 staff combined, analysts estimate.

China's crackdown on dissent since it imposed a national security law a year ago has driven many people in Hong Kong off social media or to self-censor their posts following a spate of arrests over online remarks.

While Hong Kong's population of about 7.5 million means it isn't a major market in terms of its user base, foreign firms often cite the free flow of information in Hong Kong as a key factor for being located in the financial hub.

The letter from the tech giants comes as global companies increasingly consider whether to leave the financial center for cities offering more hospitable business climates.

The anti-doxing amendments will be put before the city's Legislative Council and a bill is expected to be approved by the end of this legislative year, said Paul Haswell, Hong Kong-based head of the technology, media, and telecom law practice at global law firm Pinsent Masons.

The tech firms' concerns about the proposed rules are legitimate, Mr. Haswell said. Depending on the wording of the legislation, technology companies headquartered outside Hong Kong, but with operations in the city, could see their staff here held responsible for what people posted, he said.

A broad reading of the rules could suggest that even an unflattering photo of a person taken in public, or of a police officer's face on the basis that this would constitute personal data, could run afoul of the proposed amendments if posted with malice or an intention to cause harm, he said.

"If not managed with common sense," the new rules "could make it potentially a risk to post anything relating to another individual on the internet," he said.

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Facebook, Google, Twitter say may quit Hong Kong over proposed data laws- WSJ

ABS-CBN News 05 July, 2021 - 01:16am

Posted at Jul 05 2021 09:16 PM

US tech giants Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google and Twitter Inc have privately warned the Hong Kong government that they could stop offering their services in the city if authorities proceed with planned changes to data-protection laws, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing a letter.

The laws could make the tech companies liable for the malicious sharing of individuals' information online, the newspaper added.

A letter sent by an industry group that includes the internet firms said companies are concerned that the planned rules to address "doxing" could put their staff at risk of criminal investigations or prosecutions related to what the firms' users post online, Journal reported.

Doxing is an act of revealing people's personal information such as real name, home address or workplace online without the user's permission.

Facebook, Google and Twitter did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for a comment.

Hong Kong's Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in May proposed amendments to the city's data-protection laws that it said were needed to combat doxing, a practice that was prevalent during 2019 protests in the city, the newspaper said.

According to the newspaper, the letter dated June 25 was sent by Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition.

"The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering the services in Hong Kong," the Journal reported, quoting the letter. 

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; editing by David Evans)

© 2021 ABS-CBN Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Asia industry group warns privacy law changes may force tech firms to quit Hong Kong By Reuters

Investing.com 05 July, 2021 - 12:00am

(Reuters) - An Asian industry group that includes Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter has warned that tech companies could stop offering their services in Hong Kong if the Chinese territory proceeds with plans to change privacy laws.

The warning came in a letter sent by the Asia Internet Coalition, of which all three companies, in addition to Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL), LinkedIn and others, are members.

Proposed amendments to privacy laws in Hong Kong could see individuals hit with "severe sanctions", said the June 25 letter to the territory's privacy commissioner for personal data, Ada Chung Lai-ling, without specifying what the sanctions would be.

"Introducing sanctions aimed at individuals is not aligned with global norms and trends," added the letter, whose contents were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

"The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong, thereby depriving Hong Kong businesses and consumers, whilst also creating new barriers to trade."

In the six-page letter, AIC managing director Jeff Paine acknowledged the proposed amendments focus on the safety and personal data privacy of individuals. "However, we wish to stress that doxxing is a matter of serious concern," he wrote.

During anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, doxxing - or publicly releasing private or identifying information about an individual or organisation - came under scrutiny when police were targeted after their details were released online.

The details of some officers' home addresses and children's schools were also exposed by anti-government protesters, some of who threatened them and their families online.

"We ... believe that any anti-doxxing legislation, which can have the effect of curtailing free expression, must be built upon principles of necessity and proportionality," the AIC said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, while Twitter referred questions to the AIC.

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