It looks like big tech firms have some serious concerns as to Hong Kong’s data protection laws. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal (paywall), Google, Facebook and Twitter have all privately communicated with the Hong Kong government over the laws and in particular its outlook on doxing.
Should the government not chose to re-evaluate its data protection, some companies have even threatened to cut off service in the region.
The publication explains that Hong Kong’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in May proposed amendments to the city’s data protection laws that it said were needed to combat doxing, which is said to have been heavily practised during the 2019 protests.
“A letter sent by an industry group that includes the internet firms said companies are concerned that the planned rules to address doxing could put their staff at risk of criminal investigations or prosecutions related to what the firms’ users post online,” the WSJ wrote.
Those who are found to have violated the data protection laws could receive fines up to one million Hong Kong dollars or spend up to five years in prison, so the penalties carry significant weight.
While the wording around doxing in the amendments is rather vague, it is for that very reason that fears are rising for anyone who works at one of the aforementioned tech firms, as they could be subject to criminal investigations and prosecution for doxing offences by those who use the platform.
“The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering the services in Hong Kong,” a previously undisclosed letter sent last month by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) warned.
“We also appreciate the importance of privacy and the protection of personal information and are therefore committed to the principles that safeguard users’ personal identities through community standards on privacy violations We also believe that any anti-doxxing legislation, which can have the effect of curtailing free expression, must be built upon principles of necessity and proportionality,” it added.
This is not the first time that the Hong Kong government and tech firms have bee at a loggerheads, with the most notable recent case being that of TikTok this time last year when the app’s fate was still up in the air over China’s invasive data privacy laws that came into effect on 30th June.
With neither side blinking in this game of chicken at this stage, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be.
For now, those working in Hong Kong at tech firms are left wondering whether their work could soon see them come under attack by the government.