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Hong Kong begins talks on controversial ‘anti-doxxing’ privacy bill

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A security guard stands in front of a sign of Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China 26 May, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s legislature, which has no opposition party, begins discussions on Wednesday on privacy laws tackling “doxxing behaviour” that some technology giants fear are so broad and vague that they could hamper operations in the city.

Critics of the legislation, including human rights and tech industry groups, say the measures could be used to protect those in power and target civil society. Supporters say the legislation was long overdue to counter a problem festering since the city’s 2019 mass pro-democracy protests.

Doxxing – publicly releasing private or identifying information about an individual or organisation – came under scrutiny after details about police and judges were released online following the protests.

Some officers’ home addresses and children’s schools were exposed by anti-government protesters, leading to threats.

The government, which has pushed Hong Kong onto an increasingly authoritarian path since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in 2020, faces no official opposition after democratic lawmakers resigned en masse last year in protest at the disqualification of colleagues.

That means the law could be passed quickly, empowering the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data to investigate and prosecute doxxing.

Violators include anyone who discloses an individual’s personal data without consent “with an intent to cause specified harm or being reckless” about the harm caused.

“Specified harm” includes harassment, threat, intimidation, bodily harm, psychological harm, causing the victim to be concerned about safety, and others. Violators could face fines of up to HK$1 million ($128,736) and five years in prison.

The commissioner can apply for a warrant to enter and search premises and seize materials for investigation, and can access electronic devices without a warrant. It can also issue notices to remove content or bloc

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