HK Privacy Commissioner: dumb and dumber again

Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Allan Chiang made himself look foolish enough last February when he insisted that Hong Kong ID Card numbers were ‘personal’ – that is, confidential – when their whole purpose is to allow others to identify the individual holder. Inexplicably, the man has come back for more. He has now taken it upon himself to ban smartphone app Do No Evil, which packages publicly available bankruptcy and litigation data for on-line access.

The key point here is that you can already get this information from court records, the Official Receiver’s Office and the Companies Registry, or you can pay specialist agencies to search for it. Access the exact same information collated in the Do No Evil database, however, and – according to Allan Chiang – you are suddenly invading people’s privacy. The Privacy Commissioner’s warped logic is that the app is ‘changing the purpose of use’ of the data.

This rule is supposed to stop companies from selling customers’ details to other parties. It is not Chiang’s job to tell us under what conditions we can access public records. Someone’s purpose for doing such a background check (typically due diligence, or it could be investigative journalism or, ideally, sheer nosiness) is irrelevant and none of the Privacy Commission’s business. Anyway, it has nothing to do with which method you use to access the data – which should also be none of the Commission’s business.

The charitable explanation is that Chiang is stuck in the days of paper and filing cabinets and still trying to get his head around such innovations as microfiches, let alone phones that aren’t even plugged into a wall socket and can download data from the Internet. Alternatively, he could be a desperate empire-building bureaucrat who is happy to crush private-sector innovators like the developers of Do No Evil and deny the public access to the community’s own stores of information to make himself feel oh-so big, puffed-up and important. Activist David Webb suggests that Chiang is both a ‘technophobic Luddite’ and engaging in ‘mission creep’.

The distressing thing is that Chiang’s civil service colleagues and government masters will look the other way, in order to collectively preserve face, rather than admit that one particular office-holder and establishment member has got it massively wrong twice now and is, to be blunt, unfit for his job. Maybe the international press will pick up the story and subject the Privacy Commission to merciless mockery.

Meanwhile we have to put up with this buffoonery. I can’t help wondering if Chiang is one of those people who freaks out if he steps on the cracks between paving stones and sets out the pencils on his desk so they are exactly 1 inch apart and wets himself if someone dislodges one. Do something in a particular way for a particular reason, and it’s OK; do exactly the same thing in a different way for a different reason, and it’s not allowed. Thus, perhaps, it is acceptable to consult the list of members of the Privacy Commission’s Advisory Committee on its official website in order to note the many outstanding members of the community who serve upon it, and respect their privacy by not repeating any of their names here. But it is wrong to examine the same list on the database in order to laugh at and highlight the fact that it includes the inevitable Bunny Chan, appointee to so many of the most tedious-sounding public bodies, and Siu Sai-wo of Sing Tao, writer of the shamelessly groveling ‘Fame and Fortune’ column in the Standard.

On the subject (while declaring the weekend open) of intruding into others’ privacy…

…the delightful scene at 7.25 this morning in the Standard Chartered ATM booth at the corner of Wyndham and Wellington Streets, just down from bar district Lan Kwai Fong. Touchingly, he had left his shoes outside; she managed a comatose-but-reproving glance when I stepped over him and turned up the volume so the lady’s voice said “Please take your cash!” extra loud.

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19 Responses to HK Privacy Commissioner: dumb and dumber again

  1. PCC says:

    He’s a technophobic creep in search of a mission.

  2. Failed Alchemist says:

    We rest our case Hemlock. Chiang is another Ducky appointee including the past & present ICAC heads, police commissioner, observator director, RTHK head – the list goes on. Leftovers taken up by CY because due to lack of support for the wolf over the baffoon.

    Can someone tell Chiang to chill and go lick a stamp?

  3. I agree with Mr Chiang.

    A world where all information is available for unrepentant capitalists like Mr Webb to chew on is a dangerous one.

    Freedom of information doesn’t mean free for everyone at all times at the tap of a screen.

    You really have to start thinking these things through and look at the class people serve more.

    Apple serves the CIA. Mr Webb serves to shore up capitalism and make it respectable. It can’t be done.

  4. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    A simple legal challenge will sort this. Come on Mr. Webb!

  5. Ponzi says:


    David Webb is not technophobic.

  6. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    If Mr Webb had a Kickstarter fund raising drive to fund the legal action, I’d put money into it. Is that champetry?

  7. So Bela, if you would not allow unrepentant capitalists to access public data, which bureaucrat would you appoint to decide who is or is not repentant? It sounds like an ideal job for Allan Chiang.

    And which would you rather have – an unrepentant capitalist like Webb who promotes transparency, or the crony capitalists making secret deals behind closed doors whom he frequently works to expose? In your own words, “You really have to start thinking these things through”.

  8. Incredulous says:

    PCCW has sold out to NSA. Maybe Allan Chiang should be looking into this:

  9. Bela Trenchcoat says:

    Private Beach

    Easy. No need for cogitation here. I would shoot them all. Fortunately, that job will be done for me.

    1939 – The Grapes of Wrath. 2013 – The Moutai of the Philistines.

    Some plots never change.

  10. Real Tax Payer says:

    The funniest comment I saw so far on Allan Chiang Lud-dite was on the SCMP website yesterday where someone guffawed in the comments section that Chiang – who was the previous postmaster general – is so much out of date with modern technology that to him self-adhesive stamps are rocket science.

    I guess he’s still getting over the shock of discovering that private courier companies not only exist ( bit like finding life on Mars) but they can even deliver faster than HK Speed Post !

    PS : Bella I assume you speak tongue in cheek otherwise I’d have to say you are a total … what is the best title for a mindless nerd? ah yes … a CHIANG ! ( That’s almost as bad as calling you an enery)

  11. Real Tax Payer says:

    As an after thought, the sad thing is that to Chiang a “blog” is something like AIDS or SARS ( or worse) and if he even clicked on the Big Lychee website his computer ( if he has one) would explode in flames.

    Perhaps I will make a screen cap of today’s BL + the comments and post him a copy. That will fuck up his next monday morning !

  12. pccrrgghll says:

    Siu’s Standard column today was a corker. Italian food is quite popular, apparently. Pulitzer!

  13. LTP says:

    These wonderful rules allowing sacred companies to tread where mere mortals are banished are… the rule on the mainland.

    That’s why, here in HK, it’s impossible to dispose of construction waste at any price unless you’re corporate.

    And they wonder why platforms are always built around “small houses” and the wetlands shrink 30% a year.

  14. Bela The Merciful says:

    Webb’s sentence would be commuted to permanent doorman at the Stock Exchange. The Lis would have to build and live in one of their flats. Kadoorie would have to mine copper in Chile. Other assorted property tycoons would have to hand out flyers on Robinson Road until they drop. Tobacco baron and HK Standard owner Charles Ho would be condemned to chain smoke until he expires.

    I couldn’t do anything for the SCMP Kuoks. A mob of disgruntled Posties got to them first.

  15. Stuart says:

    he was a post master general, who was so popular that when his appointment as privacy commissoner was announced, the post office staff union (he has a few jobs in between as well) came out marching against. how terrible a man do you have to be to have ex-ex-staffers come out in public to announce your douchebaggery everytime you get another unsuitable job..

  16. Failed Alchemist says:

    Watching the news… ex-ICAC head buys a few thousand bottles of wine because of insider advise from two other wine experts… Just kidding but wine is not cheaper by the dozen but thousands… This is the state of affairs after handover and if the big bosses up north want to know why we lack confidence…

    For ex-post master, the posties didn’t like bird watching in their toilets… only proofs the stardard and quality of our administrators. At least one up for Webb since this kind of “watching” makes sense.

  17. pcatbar says:

    It begs the question as to why a Privacy Commissioner should be anyone other than a former Judge or other independent legal professional. Why appoint someone so manifestly unqualified? (Answer – he is a friend of Donald’s). It is as if he has not even read the ordinance and just assumes it must be about keeping things private so that any new means of disseminating data is bad. Come on Do NO Evil take the arse to court so we can pour more scorn on him.

  18. Dark Mist says:

    Furthermore – an app like this goes both ways, banning the app does not make the information unavailable, it is still in the public record, however, with an app that makes searching the information easy, it also makes it easy for someone to search information about themselves and take the necessary action to correct incorrect information at the source.

    I would help fund the app developer to take this arse to court.

  19. Real Scot Player says:

    Chiang is a retarded cunt but everyone knew that long ago. He might even be so retarded he could get a fulltime job with Vagina. Which would be apt: cunt meets cunt.

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