HK privacy commissioner stresses need for data ethics

08 Mar 2018

Hong Kong's Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) has urged the mobile industry to take into account the importance of trust, respect and ethics in building the digital economy.

Speaking at last week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, privacy commissioner Stephen Kai-yi Wong said smart data privacy policies are key to increasing consumer trust.

“It is no exaggeration to say that nowadays ‘smart’ technologies like the Internet of Things, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning (BDAIML) fuel the engine of the digital economy.

“While BDAIML makes our lives easier, we provide our data to make BDAIML work better. While consumers disclose to data users or controllers all their sensitive data, we do expect data users or controllers not to betray consumers’ trust. Herein, accountability involves taking proactive and preventive measures to ensure privacy protection and legal compliance.”

While data security is the first and foremost necessity for ensuring data protection and accountability, privacy protection is about more than security alone, Wong said. Data uers or controllers have an ethical obligation to protect individuals' personal data.

“We also need to pay attention to the reasonable expectations, rights, interests and freedoms of the individuals concerned when processing personal data. In this regard, I urge data users and controllers to embrace two principles: (1) no surprise to consumers and (2) no harm to consumers,” he said.

“Consumers who have trust and confidence in a company are more ready and willing to share their data with the company, generating positive feedback to the digital ecosystem and reinforcing the symbiotic relationship between individual consumers and BDAIML.”

In the Hong Kong market, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner plans to invite organizations to share strategies and best practices in data protection, and award those having made commendable efforts.

The office also plans to conduct a study on data ethics and has invited local organizations to participate with advice or comments.

“As consumers’ privacy awareness and expectation increases, and ICT development expedites, the attitude of data processors and users should correspondingly be changed,” Wong concluded.

“On top of fair enforcement and regulating, we will work together with organizations, public and private data controllers and processors included, for a better and safer digital ecosystem in this age of data.”

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