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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Greenleaf, Graham --- "Private Parts" [1996] PrivLawPRpr 38; (1996) 3(3) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 60

Private parts

compiled by Graham Greenleaf


Mr Stephen Lau Ka-Men has been appointed to a five-year term as Hong Kong's first Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, commencing 1 August 1996. The Commissioner is responsible for enforcement of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance 1995 (see 2 PLPR 164). Mr Lau is currently Managing Director of Ordinance 1995 (see 2 PLPR 164). Mr Lau is currently Managing Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Operations of Electronic Data Systems (EDS), one of the world's largest providers of IT services (and the company founded by Ross Perot!). In 1978, Mr Lau was the first head of the HK Government Data Processing Agency, and he was on the Government Working Group on Data Protection Legislation from 1983 to 1986. At his first press conference, Mr Lau said he expected it would take at least six months before the Ordinance would come into force.

The Commissioner will have a substantial staff, with applications having closed recently for three year contracts for positions of Deputy Privacy Commissioner, Assistant Privacy Commissioner, and other assorted executive, legal and administrative positions.


The NZ Privacy Commissioner is about to release a draft code of practice for the credit reporting industry. Codes may modify the information privacy principles by prescribing standards that are more or less strict than the Act. The code will address the issue of who outside the credit industry (such as landlords or employers or journalists) should be able to get credit information. (Source: Private Word, NZ Privacy Commissioner, May 1996).


South Korea is developing a multi-purpose smart card which may become the world's most extensive ID card system. Korean telecommunications company DACOM, which won the bidding for the project, boasts (see dacom/news-clips.html):

`DACOM has been selected as the official developer for the Electronic Identification Card project which is part of the government's ultra-speed communication network building project. Managed by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs, the US$413 million project is being carried out in cooperation with the Korea Computer Institute. Once the project is completed in 1997, Koreans will be assigned a single integrated circuit (IC) card to consolidate the functions of ID card, driver's license, and medical insurance card. DACOM won the bidding amidst stiff competition as companies vied fiercely for the attractive business package promised by the project.

As 8,000 characters worth of information can be stored on the single credit card-sized card, personal information needed for issuing official documents and certificates can be accessed promptly by public offices, institutions, companies, and banks or other organisations. The Ministry of Domestic Affairs has announced that the new cards will be distributed starting in January 1997. Full implementation is scheduled to be completed by early 1998. While there are some nations in which drivers' licenses are used in place of ID cards, this project will be the first system in the world which combines multiple functions onto one card. Once distribution is completed, the card will greatly boost efficiency, saving the government US$1.3 billion and enabling it to eventually reduce its work force by 5,000 employees.'

The City of Seoul started to issue the Card to 1,000 citizens as a `test' in March. South Korea has a public sector privacy law, but its effect on this proposal is uncertain, as is legal basis for the card (and the `test').

Privacy advocates from Korea and elsewhere are taking steps to make Korean organisations aware of the implications of the proposal, and it will be an interesting and important development for privacy in the Asia-Pacific if any campaign of opposition develops.

(From information provided by Joohoan Kim, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.)


Telecom NZ has announced that Caller Display will be available from late August. It will cost residential customers NZ$6.95 per month. Customers who do not wish their numbers to be displayed must `opt-out', either on a `per call' basis by dialling a 67 prefix, or by calling Telecom to request `Automatic Number Withhold' (that is, per-line blocking). Their press release notes that customers who subscribe to Caller Display still have to comply with the Privacy Act.

Customers have been given only a couple of weeks to opt out before caller ID starts, thus stacking the inertia deck even more heavily in Telecom's favour. An amazing aspect of this `service' is that those who have silent or restricted numbers will still have to `opt out' of having their number disclosed. Their Press Release claims that the Privacy Commissioner has been kept `fully informed'.

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