Against the Appointment of a Select Committee on the Octopus Incident

KP Chan on Member’s Resolution on Appointment of a Select Committee on Octopus Incident at the Legislative Council:

Telemarketing is an ordinary business around the globe. Since the Octopus incident last year, telemarketing has been almost in standstill in Hong Kong, affecting business routine.

I am convinced that the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data is partly responsible for occurrence of the Octopus incident. Among hundreds of complaints he received each year, more than 10 cases were against Octopus in the last five years. Many areas for improvement raised in the Privacy Commissioner’s final report on the Octopus incident are generic and they are also not confined to Octopus, such as font size of the contract, language used for consent to data transfer, etc. If the Privacy Commissioner had updated his guidelines timely, the Octopus incident might not have happened.

I believe that all commercial firms are acting within guidelines. Their Directors would require the management to act within ambit of the law. As statutes or guidelines are not updated timely, it would be unfair and unreasonable to criticize firms that have followed published rules.

Actually, proper telemarketing is conducted under close supervision. For instance, there are definite procedures for data transfer, dialing and data destruction. Personal data are collected under written consent in most cases. That said, there is always room for improvement.

Following the incident, Octopus appointed an independent auditor to investigate and report to the HKMA and its Board of Directors accordingly. The Privacy Commissioner’s Office also conducted an investigation and made recommendations for improvement. The Government has proposed amendments to the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance to provide better protection of privacy for public consultation. The Legislative Council has also conducted several rounds of public hearing and deliberations on the proposed legislative amendments. These proposals would significantly improve protection of consumers. Some proposals are even considered as excessive.

In my view, the proposed Select Committee would consume considerable resources of the Legislature but not in a productive way. Therefore, I cannot support the proposal.

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