University staff and students
receive commercial advertise ments through their internal mail systems.
According to the Privacy Ordinance, mail abusers without a reasonable
excuse are liable to a fine of $10,000.
According to Tsui Yiu Ming, head of the User Services Section of the
Information Technology Services Center at The Chinese University of
Hong Kong, the center delivers at least 100,000 electronic mails every
day, of which 10 percent are unsolicited emails.
“We receive 30 to
40 complaints from users every year,” said Mr. Tsui.
However, he believes
thousands of university mail service users don’t
The Information Technology Services Center delivers email from senders
The mass mailing system provided by the center facilitates university
proper use of the mail services in universities, six pages of guidelines
and policies are provided to mail services users.
According to Mr. Tsui, the services are provided for university staff
and students, and no individual is permitted to send mass mail to
He added, “Unsolicited email for commercial purposes is definitely
To combat junk mail, the Information Technology Services Center sends
warnings to abusers.
If the abusers pay no attention, the Center will lodge complaints
to the Internet services providers.
“Usually, the Internet services provider follows up our complaints.
“In extreme cases, the Internet services provider removes the
account of the mail abusers,” explained Mr. Tsui.
To counteract commercial junk mail, two measures, labelling and optioning,
The former means abusers are blacklisted. Junk mail from them can
be identified automatically and then removed.
Optioning allows users to use a junk filter and claim themselves as
spam haters. Then no commercial mail can reach their internal accounts.
Nevertheless, the center can do nothing about professional spammers
who send many copies of the same message through the Internet.
They do not deliver commercial advertising through Internet services
providers, and they always change their accounts.
The Users Service Manager of the Information Technology Services Center
at Lingnan University said, “In the mailbox, our staff and students
even discover pornographic materials.
“We cannot help this because the system cannot filter such materials.
“Each year, the center receives not more than five complaints
from our staff, but we do know there are dozens of informal complaints
about the junk mail.”
Trying to improve the situation, the center ensures that its email
distribution list is not disclosed to the public.
At Hong Kong Baptist University, 4,000 students and 1,000 staff use
Tong Siu Hung, assistant director of the Information Technology Services
Center at Baptist University, said, “Our system can scan for
viruses, but not commercial advertisements.
“If we scan the content of email, we will infringe the privacy
of users,” explained Mr. Tong.
“It is actually controversial.
“We conducted a survey. About 70 percent of users hate commercial
“However, we cannot ignore the other 30 percent by blocking
all outside communications.”
The nature of junk mail is the same as brochures in mailboxes, as
long as commercial companies aim at making profit.
Yet, through electronic mail, companies can promote products without
paying postal costs.
Warning students be cautious, Mr. Tong said, “There are illegal
companies selling electronic mail addresses. Your email address can
easily be attained once you use an email account.
“Law in Hong Kong does not pinpoint the issue, and it is difficult
to do so,” said Mr. Tong.
W. Y. Wong, a solicitor of Siao, Wen and Leung Solicitors & Notaries,
commented, “It is inappropriate to say making use of university
internal mail services for commercial purpose is illegal.
“Our major concern is how your email data are disclosed.
“For instance, if you put your email address on a membership
application form of a restaurant and the restaurant sends dozens of
advertisements to you, it is not illegal for the restaurant to do
According to the Privacy Ordinance, advertisers should give recipients
The sentence “If you don’t want our mail anymore, please
send this mail back” should be stated in commercial email.
“You should reflect your discontentment by notifying the senders.
Otherwise, the senders do not have any responsibility,” said
It is considered criminal only when the senders ignore the wishes
of recipients or fail to give recipients a way to refuse their email.
Once abusers are convicted of disseminating junk mail, they can be
“It is rare, though,” said Miss Wong.
Fining is not only rare, but also unheard of by students.
Lam Ho Keung, a student of material science at The Chinese University
of Hong Kong, said, “I didn’t know sending mass commercial
advertisements can result in fines.”
Furthermore, advertisements from firms outside Hong Kong are not covered
by local laws.