Launch of the Hong Kong Transparency Report 2014

As the International Right to Know Day is coming this Sunday, the Hong Kong Transparency Report, a project run by the Journalism and Media Studies Centre, the University of Hong Kong, is excited to launch the 2014 report on Hong Kong government’s data and content removal requests towards online service providers.

During our research and numerous correspondences with government officers, we are able to set up an enhanced database storing the number of government requests, service providers involved and users affected in the past four years. We have also identified critical issues, such as the lack of transparency in government disclosure and the absence of an independent oversight body, that raise a serious concern as to what is keeping the government power in check when it is attempting to access or remove user information online.

We believe Hong Kong Internet users have the right to know how their data are being accessed and handled by other parties, and the government has the obligation to respect users’ privacy and regularly disclose its data and removal requests made to service providers during its criminal investigation and law enforcement processes.

Below is an executive summary of our key findings. For a detailed data analysis as well as our policy recommendations, please refer to the full edition: Hong Kong Transparency Report 2014.

User Information Requests:

  • In 2013, five government departments made a total of 5,511 user information requests (requests for users’ contact information, IP address, etc), out of which 3,846 requests (70%) were granted
  • The Police Force accounts for 83% (4,557 cases) of the total user information requests, followed by the Customs and Excise Department with 16% (873 cases).
  • A total of 64% of the Police Force’s requests were complied with by service providers
  • The two major reasons for data requests: crime prevention and detection (5,430 cases); law enforcement (81 cases)

Content Removal Requests:

  • In 2013, five government departments made a total of 1,956 content removal requests (requests to remove articles, web pages, hyperlinks), almost 100% of the requests were acceded to
  • The Department of Health accounts for 78% (1,531 cases) of the total requests, followed by the Customs and Excise Department with 20% (391 cases)
  • The two major reasons for content removal requests: suspected auction or sales of unregistered products (1,531 cases); Infringement offences (391 cases)

If you have any questions on this report, please contact:

Jennifer Zhang, +852 3917 1652, jcheung1@hku.hk

Hong Kong Transparency Report would not exist if the government were more transparent and voluntarily disclosed information about these requests.

The PDF version of the report: Hong Kong Transparency Report 2014