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Why Facebook, Google face an uncertain future in Hong Kong

Why Facebook, Google face an uncertain future in Hong Kong

Proposed changes in doxxing law comprise two major changes -- someone accused can get five-year jail with a $130,000 fine and gives government control over tech firm in removing content and helping in criminal probes

AIC has some of the biggest tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, Line, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Grab and Rakuten as its members AIC has some of the biggest tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, Line, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Grab and Rakuten as its members

An industry group in Hong Kong has sounded an alarm bell over the proposed amendments in the mega city's doxxing law, which could potentially force tech giants Google and Facebook to leave the country. This is the latest blow to  tech firms doing business in Hong Kong after the Chinese government imposed a national security law on June 30, 2020.

The Asian Internet Coalition on behalf of its members like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter, in a letter to the government in Hong Kong, said the proposed changes to the doxxing law could make employees working in these tech firms liable for criminal investigation for posts published on them.

"Doxxing is a matter of serious concern, a view that AIC shares with the Panel on Constitutional Affairs (the "Panel"). We also appreciate the importance of privacy and the protection of personal information and are therefore committed to the principles that safeguard users' identities through community standards on privacy violations," the AIC said in a 7-page letter to the office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), Hong Kong.

The proposed changes in the doxxing law were announced in May, and mainly comprise two major changes -- someone accused of doxxing can get five-year jail with a $130,000 fine and it also gives the local government control over these organisations in removing content and helping in criminal investigations.

Also read: How Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google are shifting to hybrid work regimes

"The proposal to subject such platforms to criminal liability is unnecessary and excessive, noting that these platforms are just making the service available to users for posting and should not be penalised for their users' doxxing actions over which the platforms have no control," the AIC said.

It said subjecting intermediaries and their local subsidiaries to criminal investigations and prosecution for doxxing offences under the proposed amendments is a completely "disproportionate and unnecessary response to doxxing, given that intermediaries are neutral platforms with no editorial control over the doxxing posts".

The coalition said under the new changes, even innocent acts of sharing of information online could be deemed unlawful under Hong Kong's Personal Data (Privacy)  Ordinance (PDPO). It said the only way to avoid these "sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering the services in Hong Kong". AIC has some of the biggest tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, Line, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Grab and Rakuten as its members.

What is doxxing?

Doxxing is a term used for revealing someone's identity online such as real name, address, contact number, financial, and other details, and it's circulated in public without the person's consent.

The paper setting out the proposed amendments to the PDPO has not defined the term "doxxing acts", and merely described doxxing acts to be actions that are "intrusive to personal data privacy and in effect weaponise personal data".

The definition of "doxxing acts" in the proposed amendments has created problematic ambiguity, the AIC said. It added that there is no "universally accepted or acknowledged definition for 'doxxing'". It fears that "doxxing" in the proposed amendments could have an "overly broad interpretation" such that "even innocent acts of sharing of information online could be deemed unlawful".

Also read: Facebook, Instagram pull down millions of posts during May 15-June 15, shows compliance report

 

Published on: Jul 06, 2021, 3:55 PM IST
Posted by: Manoj Sharma, Jul 06, 2021, 3:46 PM IST