14 Aug 2013 Companies Registry offers breakdown of request dates
Hong Kong Transparency Report (HKTR) obtained from the Companies Registry the specific dates on which the government department made their data requests, shedding greater light on the government data request process.
The Companies Registry made those requests to local ISPs for detailed contact information of the persons-in-charge of the websites that were on suspicion of infringing upon Companies’ Registry’s copyright. None of those requests were acceded to as “the website no longer operates under the IP address provided by the ISP, or the request has been forwarded to the ISP’s clients”, according to the department’s reply to IT legislator Charles Mok this February. Mok started asking the government to disclose its user data and content removal requests to ISPs since 2013.
Agnes Wong from the Companies Registry however did not reveal the names of the ISPs involved, citing that “since the question involved the commercial information of a large number of service providers, it is rather impossible for the government to obtain consent from all relevant organisations to disclose the required information.”
Not all government departments that HKTR contacted are able to provide data breakdown as the Companies Registry did. The Hong Kong Police Force, for instance, said it was unable to provide a breakdown by company and date as it did not keep numbers of requests or acceded figures of individual companies. The police made 4,557 data requests and 31 data removal requests in 2013 for the purpose of crime prevention.
Similarly, the Customs and Excise Department told HKTR that it was unable to provide such a breakdown as “we have not maintained a database for such purpose”. The customs made 873 user data requests and 391 removal requests from Feb 2013 to Jan 2014 to detect crime and combat infringement offence.
In comparison, the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) said it cannot provide the breakdown for its data requests because “such disclosure would harm or prejudice the prevention, investigation and detection of crime and offences under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance (UEMO)”. UEMO is a local law that regulates the sending of commercial electronic messages. OFCA made 70 data requests from Feb 2013 to Jan 2014 for investigation purposes.
OFCA, however, did provide the specific dates on which it requested local websites to remove indecent text and photos. This leads to the question whether the OFCA access to information officers have different interpretations and implementation guidelines on UEMO.
The dates on which the Companies Registry made each request are: