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Council Question: Government’s requests for information disclosure and removal made to information and communication technology companies
2017-03-01

     Following is a question by the Hon Charles Peter Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, in the Legislative Council today (March 1):

Question:

According to the transparency reports separately published by seven international information and communication technology (ICT) companies, namely Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Verizon, such companies received a total of 712 requests for disclosure of user information made by the Hong Kong Government in the first half of 2016, representing a 15% increase over the preceding half year.  In particular, Facebook received in the first half of 2016 record-breaking 190 requests, which was a rise of 68% over the 113 requests in the preceding half year and many times more than the one request made in the first half of 2013.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the following details of the requests for information disclosure made by the Government in each half-year from 2015 to 2016 to ICT companies (set out the information in a table, broken down by government department):
(i) total number of ICT companies involved;
(ii) names and types of ICT companies involved (e.g. Internet service providers (ISP), device producers, social media and search engines);
(iii) total number of requests made;
(iv) total number of user accounts involved;
(v) types of information requested for disclosure (e.g. user names, Internet Protocol addresses and contact methods) and the respective numbers of the requests concerned;
(vi) nature of information requested for disclosure (i.e. metadata and/or content of communication) and the respective numbers of the requests concerned;
(vii) reasons for making the requests (e.g. for investigation of cases, law enforcement and others) and the respective numbers of the requests concerned;
(viii) number of requests made under a court order;
(ix) number of requests acceded to; and
(x) reasons why the requests were not acceded to (e.g. the request not made under a court order, failure to provide appropriate legal documents, insufficient justifications, not in compliance with the policies of ICT companies, and others) and the respective numbers of the requests concerned;
if such information cannot be provided, of the reasons for that;

(2) of the following details of the requests for information removal made by the Government in each half-year from 2015 to 2016 to ICT companies (set out the information in a table, broken down by government department):
(i) total number of ICT companies involved;
(ii) names and types of ICT companies involved:
(iii) total number of requests made;
(iv) volume of information requested for removal;
(v) types of information involved (e.g. videos, text, images) and the respective numbers of the requests concerned;
(vi) nature of information involved (e.g. indecent content, illegal advertisements, copyright infringement and false information) and the respective numbers of the requests concerned;
(vii) reasons for making the requests (e.g. for investigation of complaints, law enforcement and others);
(viii) number of requests made under a court order;
(ix) number of requests acceded to; and
(x) reasons why the requests were not acceded to;
if such information cannot be provided, of the reasons for that;

(3) of the reasons why the number of requests for information disclosure made by the Government to Facebook has increased continuously since 2013;

(4) of the legal bases and considerations for the Government’s making requests for information disclosure and removal to ICT companies, and set out the ordinances, internal guidelines and codes of practice concerned; and

(5) whether the Government has plans to improve its procedure for making the aforesaid requests and to increase the transparency of the Government’s practices in this respect, e.g. (i) setting up an independent committee to review the relevant practices, (ii) drawing up guidelines for making such requests by making reference to industry-led best practices, and (iii) releasing reports on such requests made by government departments and law enforcement agencies on a half-yearly basis; if it has no such plans, of the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

Regarding the five parts of the question, having consulted the relevant bureaux and departments, our reply is as follows:

(1), (2) and (3) Details of the requests for information disclosure and information removal made by the Government in each half-year from 2015 to 2016 to ICT companies (including Facebook) are set out in Table 1 and Table 2 respectively.

(4) and (5) If officers of individual government departments and law enforcement agencies, in carrying out their duties, need to request for information or co-operation from relevant persons or organisations (including ICT companies), the requests are mainly related to crime prevention and detection as well as law enforcement.  They will make the requests in accordance with duty-related laws, established procedures or guidelines, including the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and the relevant code of practice/ guidelines, and will ensure that the relevant requests are only made when it is necessary for performing duties.

The above mechanism and guidelines have been functioning effectively and efficiently.  At present, we do not have plans to make any change.

Ends/Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30

 

Office Of Hon. Charles Mok, Legislative Councillor (IT)