March 29, 2023


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US technology giants respond to Hong Kong’s request for ‘break’ user data diversification

2 min read

Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Google said Monday they had “paused” the process of requesting user data from Hong Kong law enforcement agencies, just days after Beijing’s controversial new national security law went into effect in the region.

A WhatsApp spokesman said WhatsApp had stopped “reviewing” “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Act, with due diligence and consultation with human rights experts, due to formal human rights.”

WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, said it did so, citing the company’s belief that “people have the right to express themselves without fear of protection or other coercion.”

Twitter further said in a statement that it has suspended such requests since last week. “Like many public interest organizations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry colleagues, there are deep concerns about both our development process and the whole purpose of this law,” it said.

A Google spokesman said the company had “stopped production on any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities” and would “continue to review the new law in detail.”

Although Facebook, its products earn advertising revenue from WhatsApp and Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Google China, they have been blocked in all countries where authorities shut down any online platform where they have no final control over their content. However, these are historically accessible to historians in Hong Kong, which still exist outside the “Great Firewall” on the mainland.

But Hong Kong has faced multiple unknowns since the new National Security Act came into force on July 1, which has raised unprecedented concerns about the future of financial center freedom of speech.

If China wants to impose more control over Hong Kong’s Internet space through the new law, US technology companies could end up in conflict with Beijing.

The new law criminalizes secession, sectarianism, terrorism and alliances with foreign powers on a broadly broader terms. These rules give authorities the power to investigate, prosecute and punish local governments and foreigners who appear to promote bias or “hate speech” by the Chinese regime.

It further states that officials may ask any “electronic messages” publisher, platform, host or network service provider to remove or restrict their access “endangering national security.” Failure to comply could result in a fine and up to one year in prison.

In a transparent report from July to December last year, Facebook said it had received 241 information requests from 257 users or accounts in the Hong Kong authorities and provided “some information” in 46% of cases.

Chat applications that have made a name for themselves by offering greater levels of encryption and security have also looked into the matter. The London-based Telegram was the first to state that it did not intend to process data requests from Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, the encrypted chat app Signal, popular with Chinese dissidents and Hong Kong protesters, is owned by colleagues: “We were announcing that we were also stopping, but we never started transferring user data to HK Police. Also, we don’t have user data to launch.” ”

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