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Facebook, Twitter, Telegram will not give user data to Hong Kong authorities till new security law is reviewed

Tech companies have refused to hand over user data to Hong Kong authorities until the new security law is further assessed.

twitter-logoYasmin Ahmed | July 7, 2020 | Updated 10:32 IST
(Source: Reuters)

Highlights

  • Last week a new security law was passed by China in Hong Kong which criminalises critical remarks for the government.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, and Google have said that they will not give user data to the authorities till the new law is reviewed.
  • These apps are banned in China but have extensive users in Hong Kong.

Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, and Google have said that they will not give access to user data to the police or the enforcement in Hong Kong.

The move comes shortly after China's new national security law in Hong Kong, which came into effect on July 1. The new security law gives China more control over Hong Kong's autonomous activities like protests or dissent against the communist party. It criminalises "secession, subversion, organization, and perpetration of terrorist activities and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security."

However, the tech giants have refused to comply with the authorities were handling the user data in Hong Kong is concerned, at least till the new law is further assessed.

Telegram, the messaging app that goes big on privacy, was the first company to announce that it would halt co-operation, the BBC stated. "We understand the right to privacy of Hong Kong users. Accordingly, Telegram does not intend to process any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city," telegram told The Hong Kong Free press in a statement.

Facebook said that people should have the freedom of expression which is a fundamental right. It also said that it was pausing the review of government requests for user data from Hong Kong pending further assessment of National Security Law.

WhatsApp said that it "believes in the right for people to have a private conversation online" and that it will remain committed to providing private and secure messaging services to users in Hong Kong.

Twitter too suspended data requests from Hong Kong authorities when the new law came into effect last week. A Twitter spokesperson told The Hill that the New Security Law was passed at a rapid pace and that it was only published in its entirety for the first time last week. "Our teams are reviewing the law to assess its implications, particularly as some of the terms of the law are vague and without clear definition."

Google said it was reviewing the new laws until which it has paused the production of new data requests.

Signal, too, said that it never started handing the data to Hong Kong police in the first place.

These apps are banned from mainland China as part of the Great Firewall under which the government monitors and tracks online activity. However, a large number of people in Hong Kong use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram extensively. Apple and Microsoft are functional in China and it is to be seen if they comply with the authorities in the future.

The new National Security Law will criminalise pro-democracy slogans and protests. The crimes include conspiring with foreigners to provoke hatred of the Chinese government or Hong Kong authorities.

As per reports, since the new law was passed many pro-democracy leaders and activists have withdrawn from their positions.

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