Hong Kong: Children – Their Awareness Of And Protection Of Their Personal Data And The Dangers Of Internet Dispersal

On the 1st December 2015 the Hong Kong Personal Data Privacy Commissioner ("the Commissioner") as the chief executive officer charged with responsibility under the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance ("PDPO") took the deliberately proactive step of publishing two important papers related to the Data Protection Principles which apply to the collection of personal data under the PDPO.

The Data Protection Principles scheduled to the PDPO require that personal data should be collected and communicated to the data user only where necessary and that the methods of collection of personal data must be fair and for a lawful purpose. Data subjects have a right to be informed about the extended use of their personal data and to be assured that their personal data is accurately recorded and securely stored. Furthermore the retention of collected personal data can only be for a period directly related to the purpose of collection. Any change of that purpose which departs from the original purpose of collection must be sanctioned by a specific consent to such change by the data subject. Furthermore data subjects are entitled to be informed about the policies and practices of the collecting data user and of the right to access the collected personal data and to correct it.

On the whole these principles have guided many collectors and users of personal data since the enactment of the PDPO in 1995.

However, it is only in recent years that with increasingly alert and active Commissioners getting the bit between their teeth that the PDPO has been brought squarely and fairly into the benefit of the public and by an activity extension at the close of 2015 the Commissioner has focused his eyes upon the possible abuses of the PDPO in relation to the collection of the personal data of and from children.

In May 2015 the Commissioner's Office carried out a survey on the commercial outreach targeting of young persons in Hong Kong. This was Hong Kong's contribution to a coordinated worldwide survey on the same lines which it can now be seen threw up some interesting statistics regarding the sometimes cavalier way in which data users approach data subjects below the age of 18. The survey involved 43 local Hong Kong websites and two mobile apps variously run by NGOs, businesses and the Hong Kong SAR Government. The survey found that 60% of the local websites collected the home address of the target and over 70% requested the phone number of the target. The equivalent averaged figures for the international survey were respectively 19% and 22%. More than half of the local websites in the survey did not indicate to the accessing visitors that the websites might share collected personal data with third parties including other businesses thus establishing a covert or hidden effective breach of the data principle on collection which we visit below. Furthermore, only 4% of those surveyed proactively offered a personal data deletion option to the data subjects.

For this purpose "children" are regarded by the Commissioner as persons aged under 18.

As stated above two separate publications have issued in December 2015 from the Commissioner's Office.

The first can be seen as a supplement to the Commissioner's previous publication "Guidance for Data Users on the Collection and Use of Personal Data."

This first supplementary publication identifies the inexperienced innocence of children as the principal realistic danger to them and, by extension, to others who may be the recipients of personal data innocently transmitted by children on the internet.

It is the children's lack of sophisticated acquired ability to comprehend the full scope of potential reach of the internet and accordingly of personal data posted on it which is the main concern identified by the Commissioner.

Accordingly, the Commissioner emphasizes that data users should bear in mind that in any current interest interaction with children that they are at least potentially a highly vulnerable class and the Commissioner offers the following tips of best practice for following of the data protection principles outlined above by data users.

The Commissioner suggests that best data user practice is to avoid collecting personal data from children and he further extends this counsel to the possible collection of personal data from children which relates to third parties such as their parents or friends. The Commissioner advises that if children are to be involved in the collection of personal data the means of collection should be in the most simple form available and with specific indications to the child concerned that submission of data collected in respect of third parties such as parents or friends must be the subject of express consent of such third party persons.

Discussion forums on the internet are commonplace today. These encourage content to be posted by visitors to the forum who may of course include children. It is for the data user to ensure that when children post such content into the forum the privacy implications which arise are clearly understood by the posting child. This should extend to the ability of the posting child to delete and edit the posted matter so that the posting child is given an explicitly considered opportunity to reconsider the posted content. The best and ideal rule of thumb is that when data users are setting out discussion forums they should make it necessary for previewing of content to enable assessment before posting into the forum as a means of encouraging the posting child to think twice before the material goes online in the forum. It should further be made clear to all and sundry that once material is posted in the forum it may be copied by third parties and re-posted out of control of the originally posting child.

The Commissioner advises that parental guidance should involve the posting child in the giving by children of their personal data to the collecting data users and that the child's consultation with parents prior to any such posting while not perfect would be an ideal counsel to follow.

Children should be made fully aware of their rights to correction or removal of their personal data in the simplest possible way with full information of how to effect removal or disclosure.

Data users should ensure that data posting children should be fully aware of default configuration with privacy protection. This should be as restrictive as possible to prevent onward sharing without clear knowledge and consent of the data subject – particularly relevant in the case of data subject children.

In addition to taking all possible steps to ensure that children have fully aware knowledge of the consequences of the collection of their personal data, a data user should consider the best practice of providing a means to enable children to opt out of the publication of their personal data.

This advice extends to the obtaining of express consent as required by the Data Protection Principles above mentioned of any child data subject when the original purpose of the personal data collection is to change to a new purpose.

Considerable focus is given by the Commissioner to the interaction of child data subjects who use social network accounts and provide personal data for the purpose. The child data subject providing the personal data should be clearly warned and advised with a full explanation of the implications of diffusion of the collected personal data among the social network users. The provision of anonymous login would be an effective way to achieve this as nearly as possible. The same caution any rehearsal should apply to a data user's collection from children of personal data which are, or are likely to be, the subject of redirection to linked sites. This is because the personal data concerned and its onward use and application will be completely outside the control both of the child data subject and, more importantly, of the data user who has collected the personal data concerned.

Consistent with the foregoing the use of personal data on direct marketing materials and practice should be made very clear with the express consent of the child data subject being obtained prior to the collection of the personal data concerned. Experience has shown that even adult data subjects have difficulty understanding their rights to prior consent before data collection thus making the principle even more relevant and important in relation to children.

Lastly but by no means least, the protection of personal data is also a matter of legally required secure storage by the collecting data user and the collected data subject should ideally be assured at or before the time of the personal data collection of the details of the secure storage of the collected personal data as required by the data collection principles set out above.

Finally, any data collection material targeted at children should be phrased and delivered in the simplest possible language without the use of obscure legal or linguistic terms clearly beyond the normally current vocabulary of a data child subject.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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”

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
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 you may opt out by clicking here

    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.

    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.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    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.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions