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USCMA speaks to the media after attending radio programmes

     Following is the transcript (English portion) of the remarks made by the Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Miss Adeline Wong, to the media after attending radio phone-in programmes this morning (October 19):

Reporter: Under the new proposed changes, will individuals be able to take any civil actions against any breaches of privacy?

Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: In fact, under the existing Ordinance (Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance), any person who feels aggrieved by any action or contravention of the requirements under the Ordinance by data users can initiate civil action under Section 66 of the Ordinance. What we are proposing under the consultation report is to empower the Privacy Commissioner to provide legal assistance to these individuals so that they can have a better chance to succeed in their cases.

Reporter: The report said it is unnecessary to have a mandatory breach notification system for the Privacy Commissioner to be notified of any breaches. Why is that?

Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: What we are proposing in the consultation report is to adopt a voluntary notification system. During the consultation, many respondents supported a voluntary system because if a mandatory system were to be implemented, they were worried that there might not be consistent, standardised or common practices on notification standards. They were not sure how the system was going to operate, and also they were worried about the compliance cost. So, that is why taking into account the views submitted by the respondents, we propose at this stage that we are going to adopt a voluntary system, so that we can update, revise or adjust the voluntary system having regard to actual operational experience.

Reporter: But if this is a voluntary system, will it be enough to crack down on any violations of privacy?

Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I think the best safeguard for individuals is that in case there are breaches, it would be in the own interest of the enterprises or data users to make notification. Because if they don't, then it will have an adverse impact on their goodwill and also on their reputation. Regarding public organisations or government departments, in fact we already have an internal set of guidelines on notification requirements in case there are such incidents. This is being co-ordinated and monitored by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, and we also submit regular reports to the Legislative Council Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting.

Reporter: I know you don't plan on giving the Privacy Commissioner extra powers to carry out investigations to prosecute people who violate the Ordinance. But after the consultation, if most of the views support giving extra powers to the Privacy Commissioner, will you reconsider?

Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: The public views were very clear during our consultation last year. The public generally agreed that we should continue with the existing system, under which the power of enforcement, prosecution and also investigation should be vested in different organisations in order to have better checks and balances. But of course, this is our stance at this stage. If there are going to be other views to be added during the further public discussions in the months to come, then of course we will consider seriously these views. But up till this moment, according to our assessment and also the views submitted to us so far, there is no predominant or majority view regarding the provision of extra powers to the Privacy Commissioner for the reasons that I have cited.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Tuesday, October 19, 2010