Privacy Laws in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is not alone in the world in having to deal with privacy issues. Its statutory laws are very specific about what can be collected, why it can be collected and how it can be used. The most important law is the Personal Data Protection Ordinance (PDPO). It sets out six key principles which form core business obligations in relation to the collection, use and sharing of personal data. It is also a legal requirement that the purpose of collecting data must be “lawful” and the amount of data collected must be “adequate but not excessive” in relation to that purpose.

One area that is unique to Hong Kong is the lack of a statutory restriction on the transfer of personal data outside the territory. This may seem to contradict the trend globally for a regime that imposes a requirement to demonstrate adequacy or equivalent protection before allowing a data transfer. However, it is not without its merits.

The key reason for the position taken by Hong Kong is that it was at the forefront of developing modern data privacy laws in 1995. It was decided that ensuring the protection of personal data at all times was a crucial part of Hong Kong’s success in the global economy. It was therefore considered that a statutory restriction on the transfer of data would undermine this success. This was referred to as the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” view.

The main business reasons for this view were the perceived adverse impact on business operations and the difficulties in achieving compliance with the provisions of the PDPO. This led to the movement from a firm commitment on the part of the PCPD to implement section 33 to the current indifference to whether it is implemented at all.

This does not mean that Hong Kong has no protections in place in respect of cross-border data transfers. It does, in fact, have very robust contractual obligations, including a requirement to carry out a data transfer impact assessment where personal data is being exported to Hong Kong and a requirement that the transferring data user obtains the voluntary and express consent of the data subject to use his personal data for a purpose that is not set out in his PICS.

There are many options for buying mobile SIMs in HK. The cheapest option is to buy one from China Mobile which sells many different roaming and prepaid SIM cards with data allowance for HK and mainland China on their network there. These can be bought online or at csl. shops, 7-Eleven, 1O1O and Van Go kiosks. They can be topped up using vouchers which can be purchased at any of the stores. Other mobile providers offer prepaid plans which include a data allowance for both HK and mainland China. These are available from some resellers, online or in stores. They can be topped up online HK$ 50-300 or by voucher. Generally, the data allocation for mainland China is lower than that for HK.