The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data has launched an investigation into several websites and mobile applications suspected of contravening its rules by collecting excessive data from young children and giving the information to third parties.
Privacy chief Stephen Wong Kai-yi said his office is investigating the operations of at least eight websites and apps, particularly with regard to their intentions for collecting data from clients and use of such data, Sing Tao Daily reported on Wednesday.
Wong ordered the investigation after the privacy watchdog joined a global survey launched by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) in May to check the level of privacy protection in websites and apps targeting children.
The results showed that 27 of the 45 websites and apps surveyed in Hong Kong, or 60 percent, asked children users for their addresses, and 73 percent, or 33 websites and apps, sought their phone numbers, compared with the global average of 19 percent seeking addresses and 22 percent asking for phone numbers.
The survey also showed that 36 percent collected identity card numbers from children, while 49 percent had intended to transfer information to a third party.
Of the respondents, 36 percent asked children for data other than their own, including information about their parents, friends and sometimes schools, Wong said.
Only 4 percent of the surveyed websites and apps provide ways to delete the users’ personal data.
Based on the survey results, the privacy watchdog realized that some of these websites and apps may be posing potential risks to children.
To guard against such risks, it has released guidelines on the collection of children’s data online.
Wong said his office will strengthen efforts in checking websites as regards their handling of client information and in boosting public awareness of privacy issues.
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