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Hong Kong probes online identity card database

HONG KONG: Hong Kong said yesterday it is investigating an online database containing the identity card numbers of over 1,100 residents, including some of the city’s tycoons, published to protest a proposed privacy law.
The database was compiled by corporate governance activist David Webb and includes the identity numbers of the two sons of Asia’s Richest man Li Ka-shing.
Mr Webb posted the database online to protest a proposed law which will restrict access to information on company directors, reports said.
“ID numbers should not be regarded as secrets,” said Webb’s database website, which said the information had been gathered from various online sources available to the public.
“They tell you virtually nothing about a person — they are identifiers, not personal data,” the website said referring to the identity card numbers.
However, the city’s privacy commission, which is investigating the database for “possible personal data breach,” said it could pose a risk to privacy.
“If ID card numbers coupled with other personal data such as names and home address fall into the wrong hands, the affected person could be at risk of identity fraud,” the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said in a statement.
The commission did not rule out the possibility of taking further enforcement action.
Under the proposed law, corporate directors could apply to have their residential addresses and full identity card or passport numbers blocked from public view, which the government has said would help protect their privacy.
Nearly 1,800 reporters, journalism professors and students urged the government to withdraw the proposed law in a January petition, saying it would infringe press freedom.
Such details were used in a series of recent investigative reports to expose the wealth of Chinese officials.
The former British colony, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, maintains a semi-autonomous status with guarantees of civil liberties — including press freedom — not seen in mainland China.
A large number of Chinese companies are listed in the city, a financial hub that acts as a gateway for international firms seeking to tap the booming Chinese market.