Hong Kong

Big Tech raises concerns: Hong Kong has defended planned changes to privacy laws, brushing aside concerns raised by the technology industry body.

The new law targets “doxxing” – the malicious publication of people’s personal information online.

But the industry group argues that tech giants may refuse to operate in the city because of fears they could become responsible for user-generated content.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said officials would meet with companies concerned about the changes.

In a letter, Singapore’s Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), whose members include Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple, said the proposed legislation was too broad.

“Local employees of overseas platforms in Hong Kong are not responsible for the operation of the platforms; nor do they have no right of access or control to manage the content of the online platform,” the AIC said.

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

The letter, which was written on 25 June and made public on Monday, was addressed to Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner.

In response, the government department reiterated that the changes to the law would only deal with illegal docking.

The AIC told the BBC that the letter did not mention individual companies or that any of their members planned to leave Hong Kong.

When the Hong Kong chief executive was asked about the warning on Tuesday, he dismissed concerns.

“We are pursuing illegal doxxing and authorising privacy commissioners to conduct investigations and operations, that’s all,” Ms Lam told reporters at her weekly briefing.

She also made it clear that her government would continue to fast-track the new legislation.

What are the proposed changes to the privacy law?

In May, the Hong Kong government announced plans to change data privacy laws after doxxing tactics were widely used during pro-democracy protests in 2019.

The tactic was used to name police officers and court officials who helped suppress protests online or worked on court cases in which activists were prosecuted. Journalists and protesters have also been targeted.

Proposed changes to the laws would ban “doxxing” and give authorities the power to force social media companies and websites to remove personal information from their platforms.

In 1997, the former British colony of Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule with guarantees to preserve freedoms.

Pro-democracy activists claim Beijing is encroaching on these freedoms, especially after the controversial National Security Act was introduced last year. China denies these allegations.

Google and Apple did not immediately respond to the BBC’s request for comment. Facebook and Twitter referred the BBC to the original AIC letter.

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