|LCQ15: Use of personal data kept by specified bodies in elections
Following is a question by Hon Sin Chung Kai and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (June 18):
Under the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap. 542), electors for geographical constituencies are eligible to be registered as electors for functional constituencies (FCs) only if they are members of the bodies specified in the Ordinance, including specified professional bodies or trade associations. Those specified bodies, therefore, keep a large amount of personal data (e.g. the names, residential addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names of the organisations in which they work) of the people who are eligible to be registered or have already registered as electors for the functional constituencies concerned. Such data are even more detailed than the electors' information provided to the candidates concerned by the Registration and Electoral Office. According to past records, some of the candidates of the Legislative Council (LegCo) FC elections were also the managerial personnel or directors of those specified bodies, and because of their duties, they had the right to inspect or handle the personal data of members kept by such bodies. In this regard, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it has drawn up any guidelines or best practices to regulate how the above specified bodies use their members' personal data in a fair and just manner during LegCo elections, so that candidates of the various FC elections concerned are treated fairly, and thus ensure the fairness of the elections; and
(b) how it ensures that FC election candidates who are the managerial personnel or directors of such specified bodies will not have, because of their duties, the right to inspect or obtain the personal data of members of such bodies, so as to prevent those candidates from gaining an unfair advantage in liaison with electors and electioneering work?
Professional bodies, trade associations or other bodies collecting personal data of their members in the FCs for LegCo elections, as well as the management or directors of the above bodies, should handle and use the personal data of their members in accordance with the data protection principles set out in the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PD(P)O) (Cap. 486).
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data has prepared a guidance note on "Personal Data Privacy : Guidance on Electioneering Activities", to set out how to comply with the requirements of the PD(P)O in relation to electioneering activities that may involve the collection and use of personal data. These include the requirements that personal data should be obtained by lawful and fair means, and that the use of the data should be directly related to the purpose for which the data were originally collected. The guidance note is included as an appendix to the Guidelines on Election-related Activities issued by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC).
Moreover, if the EAC receives a complaint of unfair or unequal treatment of candidates by any bodies or organisations, and is satisfied that the complaint is justified, the EAC may make a reprimand or censure in a public statement which may include the names of the candidates favourably and unfavourably treated.
According to law, the Chief Electoral Officer will supply to each candidate in an FC election the personal data contained in the final register of the electors of the FC concerned. Moreover, candidates may apply to the Electoral Registration Officer for an extract from the register of the relevant FC for any purpose related to an election. Given the above statutory requirements, each candidate participating in an FC election can fairly obtain data about the electors involved, so that the election can be conducted in a fair, open and just manner.
Ends/Wednesday, June 18, 2008