Hong Kong: Complying With The Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap. 486) In The Insurance Industry

Last Updated: 28 December 2012
Article by David Lim, Sara S.M. Or and Jenny Yu
Most Read Contributor in Hong Kong, September 2016

Keywords: personal data ordinance, PCPD, insurance industry


Last month, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) issued a Guidance Note on the Proper Handling of Customers' Personal Data for the Insurance Industry ("Guidance Note"). The Guidance Note is intended to assist insurers and insurance intermediaries in complying with the requirements under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap. 486) (PDPO) by providing practical guidelines and tips.


During the course of their operations, insurers and insurance intermediaries will collect and use customers' personal data for a range of reasons. Customers' personal data may be used for arranging and issuing insurance policies, assessing insurance claims and marketing products, among other things.

As with all data users, insurance institutions must comply with the requirements under the PDPO including the six Data Protection Principles (DPPs) set out in Schedule 1 to the PDPO. The Guidance Note is a practical guide on how to comply with the requirements of the PDPO, with particular focus on situations specific to the insurance industry.


The Guidance Note first sets out an overview of the six DPPs and provides practical applications:

  • DPP1 - Purpose and manner of collection of personal data: Personal data should onlybe collected for a lawful purpose related toa function or activity of the data user and ifnecessary for or directly related to that purpose.Only an adequate (and not an excessive)amount of data may be collected. The meansof collection must be lawful and fair. The datauser must inform the data subject before or at the time of collecting their personal data thepurposes for its collection and the classes ofpersons to whom their data may be transferred(among other things).

Application: Insurers should provide customers with a Personal Information Collection Statement (PICS) stating, among other things, the purposes for the collection of personal data, the classes of persons to whom the data may be transferred and the customer's rights to access and correct the data.

  • DPP2 - Accuracy and duration of retention of personal data: Data users are required totake all reasonably practicable steps to ensureaccuracy of personal data and to erase personaldata that is no longer required for the purposesfor which it is to be used. Further, data usersmust adopt contractual or other means toprevent any personal data transferred to a dataprocessor (e.g., an IT service provider appointedby an insurer to process and collate customerdata on its behalf) from being kept longer than is necessary.

Application: Before sending documents to a customer, an insurer should ensure that the customer's address is accurate and up-to-date. An insurer should also formulate policies and practices to specify the period of retention of customers' personal data. An insurer who appoints a data processor is required to enter into a suitable service agreement to specify, among other things, the obligations of the service provider (including the obligations to use the data for the designated purposes only, and to return or destroy the data upon termination of the service agreement), and the rights (including the right to conduct an audit) and remedies of the insurer against the service provider.

  • DPP3 - Use of personal data: Unless "prescribed consent" has been obtained from the data subject, personal data should not be used (including disclosed or transferred) for a new purpose (i.e., any purpose other than the purpose for which the data was to be used at the time of collection of the data, or a directly related purpose).

Application: An insurer should obtain the express consent voluntarily given by customers before using their personal data for a purpose other than the purposes set out in the PICS or purposes within the reasonable contemplation of the customers at the time that their data was collected (e.g., sale of their data by the insurer to another person in return for money).

  • DPP4 - Security of personal data: Data users must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure personal data held by them is protected against unauthorised or accidental access, processing, erasure or other use. Data users must also adopt contractual or other means to prevent unauthorised or accidental access, processing, erasure, loss or use of data transferred to a data processor for processing.

Application: There should be adequate security and controls over documents and computer systems containing customers' personal data. An insurer who appoints a data processor is required to enter into a service agreement with suitable provisions to require the data processor to safeguard the security of data transferred by the insurer.

  • DPP5 - Information to be generally available: Data users must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure openness and transparency about their policies and practices in relation to personal data, including the kinds of personal data they hold and the main purposes for which the data is used.

Application: An insurer should formulate and make available to customers its Privacy Policy Statement upon request, or display it on its website or at the business premises accessible to the customers.

  • DPP6 - Access to and correction of personal data: Data subjects have the right to accesstheir data held by a data user and to rectifyincorrect data.

Application: Customers can seek access to their personal data, such as insurance application forms, medical reports, risk assessment questionnaires or claim forms. In a normal case, the insurance institution should provide a copy of the data to any customer making a valid data access request within 40 days of receiving the request.

Use of personal data in direct marketing

The Guidance Note also refers to section 34 of the PDPO which provides that when a data user uses personal data for direct marketing purposes for the first time, it must inform the data subject of their right to opt out of such use by the data user. If the data subject opts out, the data user must cease to so use the data in direct marketing.

Application: During marketing calls, customers should be informed of their opt-out rights. Insurers and insurance intermediaries should ensure that the names of customers who have opted out are removed from their direct marketing call lists.

The Personal Data (Privacy) (Amendment) Ordinance prescribes heightened requirements on use of personal data in direct marketing. These requirements will come in force, tentatively, on 1 April 2013. The PCPD is presently drafting a guidance note on how the heightened requirements will be implemented in practice. In the meantime, please refer to our previous legal update entitled Personal Data (Privacy) (Amendment) 2012.

Practical tips

The Guidance Note also provides practical tips to assist insurance practitioners to deal with specific situations. The Guidance Note draws references from decisions made by the Administrative Appeals Board and determinations of the PCPD on complaint cases. These practical tips include:

  • A written PICS containing the prescribed information should be provided where practicable. This may be done by attaching the PICS to the application form soliciting personal data or giving the PICS to an individual before collecting his/her data.
  • When collecting customers' medical data, insurers should only collect that which is necessary and should not collect an excessive amount of data.
  • Insurers and insurance intermediaries should not collect Hong Kong Identity Card (HKIC) numbers or copies of HKICs unless authorised by law or specifically permitted by the Code on Personal Identifiers issued by the PCPD. An example of the latter is the collection of the HKIC number to enable the correct identification of an individual for the advancement of their interests (e.g., to ensure that a payout from an insurance claim is made to the right person). Copies of HKICs may be collected by an insurer in compliance with the customer due diligence requirements under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (Financial Institutions) Ordinance (Cap. 615).
  • In employing the services of private investigators to investigate suspicious claims, an insurer should take measures, including putting in place both contractual control and practical safeguards, to ensure that the private investigators collect only adequate (and not excessive) amounts of personal data and by lawful and fair means.
  • Insurers and insurance intermediaries should ensure that use of personal data in direct marketing is within the original purpose of use of the data or within the reasonable contemplation of the customer at the time of data collection. If that is not the case, prescribed consent of the customers must be obtained before using their data in direct marketing. When using personal data extracted from publicly available sources (e.g., public directories), insurance institutions should ensure that direct marketing is within the permitted use. Insurance institutions should also be aware of the heightened requirements in relation to direct marketing scheduled to come in force, tentatively, on 1 April 2013. Insurance institutions should devise and implement clear privacy policies and practices in relation to the retention of customers' personal data. Generally speaking, an insurance institution may retain personal data of a customer for not more than seven years after the termination of the business relationship between the insurance institution and the customer.
  • When using real cases for internal training, personal data of the customers should be redacted in order not to reveal the identity of the customers. Where possible, fictional persons and made-up scenarios should be used.
  • Insurance institutions should take reasonably practicable measures to ensure that staff and agents including insurance agents having access to customers' personal data are trained to handle personal data in compliance with internal policies and procedures and the applicable requirements under the PDPO. If third parties such as IT contractors and waste disposal contractors are entrusted to handle or destroy customers' personal data, insurance institutions should ensure safe handling and erasure by adopting contractual or other means. For example, they should ensure personal data is not released to the contractor unless absolutely necessary, and have contractual provisions prohibiting the contractor to use or disclose customers' personal data for any purpose not specified in the service contract. An insurance institution remains liable under the PDPO for the acts and practices of its staff and agents. In proceedings brought under the PDPO against an employer in respect of its employee's act or practice, it shall be a defence for the employer to prove that it took reasonably practicable steps to prevent the employee from committing the offending act or practice.
  • Insurance institutions should take appropriate measures to protect customers' personal data against unauthorised or accidental access, processing or erasure. These include allowing only authorised staff or insurance agents or representatives to access customers' personal data on a need-to-know basis. Given insurance agents and representatives often take documents or policies containing customers' personal data away from the office for working at home or other places, insurance institutions should provide clear policies and guidelines on handling customers' personal data outside the workplace.
  • In handling data access requests, an insurer may not refuse to comply with a customer's data access request of their personal data on the ground that the document containing the data contains another individual's personal data. The insurer may redact the other individual's personal data so as to conceal their identity before supplying a copy of the document to the customer. No excessive fee should be charged for complying with a data access request.

In complying with the PDPO, there are issues specific to the insurance industry, such as the collecting and retention of data to assess insurance claims and for subsequent renewals, and using customers' personal data collected for insurance purpose for direct marketing. The Guidance Note sets out a useful and practical guide to assist insurers and insurance intermediaries in complying with the requirements under the PDPO, and in dealing with situations specific to the insurance industry.

Originally published December 19, 2012

Visit us at www.mayerbrownjsm.com

Mayer Brown is a global legal services organization comprising legal practices that are separate entities (the Mayer Brown Practices). The Mayer Brown Practices are: Mayer Brown LLP, a limited liability partnership established in the United States; Mayer Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership incorporated in England and Wales; Mayer Brown JSM, a Hong Kong partnership, and its associated entities in Asia; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. "Mayer Brown" and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks of the Mayer Brown Practices in their respective jurisdictions.

© Copyright 2012. The Mayer Brown Practices. All rights reserved.

This article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein. Please also read the JSM legal publications Disclaimer.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.