Chang’s case is now being investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and she has only managed to recover 10 per cent of her money at this stage.
Hopefully, after the amendments to the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance are fully enacted, such cases will become far less common.
Zhao Yun, an associate professor from the Faculty of Law at The University of Hong Kong, welcomes the changes. “I think the commissioners have more power and authority to investigate cases and also to take some measures…and I think, more importantly, there will be changes about the permission to use your data.”
However, he does think there is a weakness in the amendments in that they do not contain any provisions covering “data processors”, that is third-party companies or individuals who are contracted to collect information by the organisations that will use it. They include people who conduct surveys on the streets.
Grandfathering arrangements also mean that companies do not have to comply with the new direct marketing requirements if they use data that was collected before the provisions came into effect, within certain conditions.
Although the new provisions are a vast improvement, Zhao says consumers should still be aware. For instance, they need to be educated about the powers and duties of privacy commissioners.
They also still have to be very careful to tick the opt-out box when applying for products and services if they are unwilling to disclose their information to third parties or for its use in marketing. It is an important step to indicate their disagreement clearly.
Apart from being more cautious when filling out forms, William Wu Man-hon, the administrator of the HKJunkCall.com, warns people to be extra vigilant when they answer anonymous phone calls. They should never believe in strangers’ claimed identities. “Customers should decide to what extent they would disclose their personal information, it is their responsibility.”