Tech Firms Withhold Data Sharing With Hong Kong

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Tech giants pledge pause data sharing with authorities in Hong Kong, after China imposed draconian security law for the territory

China is facing another consequence for its passing of a draconian security law in Hong Kong, which the British government says violates its Joint Declaration agreement between the two countries.

Indeed, such is the concern that the British government last week announced that Hong Kong citizens with a British overseas passport would now be eligible 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.

Data suspension

And now tech firms have also joined the international response, with the world’s major internet and social media platforms including Facebook, Google and Twitter confirming they won’t give Hong Kong authorities user data.

The firms have said they have stopped processing requests for user data made by Hong Kong law enforcement authorities, while they carry out an assessment of the controversial security law.

Facebook and its WhatsApp messaging division confirmed they would “pause” the review of information requests from the Hong Kong government 2pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts,” CNN reported.

Facebook reportedly said the company believes “freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions.”

Twitter meanwhile confirmed to CNN Business that it has also paused all requests from Hong Kong authorities for data and information while it reviews the law. “Like many public interest organizations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law,” a spokesperson reportedly said.

A Google spokesperson told CNN Business that when the law took effect, it “paused production on any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities, and we’ll continue to review the details of the new law.”

Video conferencing platform Zoom has also followed this action, saying in a statement that it will pause processing data requests from and related to the Hong Kong government.

The company said it is “actively monitoring the developments in Hong Kong SAR, including any potential guidance from the US government.”

A spokesperson for LinkedIn also confirmed to CNN it is pausing responses to local law enforcement requests in Hong Kong.

TikTok has is to withdraw from Hong Kong app stores, and Telegram has also said it is “pausing” cooperation with requests for user information.

Apple pressure

These declarations put pressure firmly on Apple, which has said it is “assessing” the new law.

The Chinese national security law essentially criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers, and critics say the law is a sweeping change that is an attack on freedom of speech and the press.

Indeed, under the new law police can order social media platforms, publishers and internet service providers to remove any electronic message that is likely to constitute an offence endangering national security or is likely to cause such an offence to occur.

If service providers fail to comply could face fines of up to HK $100,000 ($12,903) and jail terms of up to six months.

Individuals who post such messages may also be asked to remove it, or face similar fines and a jail term of one year.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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