First Jail Sentence for Data Privacy Violation in Hong Kong

Prison barsAt the end of 2014 Hong Kong demonstrated its willingness to impose jail time for offenses of the Personal Data Ordinance. And it seems there are several other incidents already under criminal investigation.

Hong Kong, like most Asia Pacific countries, leans toward criminal prosecution and imprisonment to enforce their law. According to DLA Piper here:

"Privacy enforcement can be categorised by regional peculiarities. Europe tends to be highly regulated and oriented towards regulatory fines. Civil rights and class actions make the USA the home of large private law suits. In Asia, with the possibility of jail sentences in a number of regimes, privacy enforcement is likely to be characterised by the real possibility of facing criminal prosecution for breaches."

The case in discussion here resulted in a sentence of four weeks in prison for lying to the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) during the investigation of a complaint.

The complaint was against an Insurance Agent who sold a policy to the complainant while the Agent was employed by one company (Company 1). The Agent left Company 1 and went to work for Company 2. He persuaded the complainant to purchase another policy and told her it was with Company 1, which was not the case. The complainant accused the agent of misleading her to believe Company 1 was the issuer, which mean the Agent used unfair means to obtain her personal data.

During the investigation the Agent gave false information to the PCPD, and for that he was sentenced to four weeks in jail.

After the case the PCPD made remarks about the importance of following data privacy laws. Most of all though, he seemed to be stressing that failure to fully cooperate and be truthful with the PCPD will be dealt with harshly:

"...anyone who makes to the Privacy Commissioner a statement which the person knows to be false, or knowingly misleads the Privacy Commissioner commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of HK$10,000 and imprisonment of 6 months." (full article here)

If breaking the law doesn't land you in prison, lying to the PCPD surely will.