Google Stops Responding To Data Request From Hong Kong

Alphabet’s Google division has confirmed it has stopped responding to data requests from the Hong Kong government.

Last month Facebook, Google and Twitter announced they had stopped processing requests for user data made by Hong Kong law enforcement authorities, while they carried out an assessment of the draconian security law.

But now according to Reuters, Google confirmed on Friday it was permanently halting the provision of user data when requested by Hong Kong authorities.

Data halt

Google has not produced any data since the new law took force in June and would not directly respond to such requests henceforth, Google reportedly stated.

“As always, authorities outside the US may seek data needed for criminal investigations through diplomatic procedures,” Google said in an emailed statement.

Google reviewed all requests for user data and pushed back on “overly broad ones” to protect the privacy of users, it added.

The Washington Post newspaper had reported earlier on Friday that Google would stop responding directly to data requests from Hong Kong authorities, implying the company would now treat Hong Kong effectively the same as mainland China in such dealings.

Google notified Hong Kong police on Thursday that it would direct officials to pursue any requests for data through a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States, which involves routing through the US Justice Department, the Washington Post reported.

Direct consequence

The move is a direct consequence for China for its passing of the security law in Hong Kong, which the British government has said violates its Joint Declaration agreement between the two countries.

Indeed, such is the concern that the British government has now provided Hong Kong citizens who have a British overseas passport, with eligibility for a route to full British citizenship.

Many countries, including the UK and United States have widely condemned the law which they say violates the “one country, two systems” framework agreed when the UK handed back the territory to China in 1997.

It remains to be seen whether firms such as Apple, Twitter and Facebook follow Google’s lead of a permanent ban.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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