Google, Facebook and Twitter pause processing of Hong Kong govt data requests

Mumbai | Updated on July 07, 2020 Published on July 07, 2020

Tech giants, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, have decided to temporarily suspend the processing of data requests from law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong to review the new security law imposed on the city by China.

National security law

Last week, China passed a landmark punitive national security law strengthening restrictions in the city. Hong Kong, on Monday, further released new rules. As per the new rules, the city’s law enforcement will have the power to take down internet posts and punish internet companies that do not comply with data requests, the New York Times reported.

These new rules that apply across the world provide power to the law enforcement agencies to jail employees at internet companies for non-compliance, the report said.

Tech companies have not yet confirmed if they will cooperate with the new law, but have temporarily paused fielding data requests from the Hong Kong government.

“We believe 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,” Facebook said in a statement as quoted by a Wall Street Journal report.

WhatsApp, Google

Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp echoed similar sentiments and said that it will pause data request reviews “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human-rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts”, as per the report.

Google and Twitter have made similar statements citing human rights concerns, and have said that they review the new law prior to taking data requests.

“Last Wednesday, when the law took effect, we paused production on any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities, and we’ll continue to review the details of the new law,” Google said in a statement as quoted by the NYT report.

Apple will also assess the new law while processing data requests. It further said that it had not received any data requests from authorities after the new law had been implemented, Bloomberg reported.

Microsoft-owned professional networking platform LinkedIn has also made a similar statement, pausing review of data requests.

“We are reviewing the new law and we are pausing our responses to local law enforcement requests in Hong Kong as we conduct our review,” a LinkedIn spokesperson said in a statement that was tweeted by Quartz reporter Mary Hui.

Telegram, Zoom

Chat app Telegram, which was the first to announce its plans to pause cooperation with Hong Kong authorities, had told the Hong Kong Free Press: “We understand the right of privacy of our Hong Kong users. Accordingly, Telegram does not intend to process any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city”.

US video conferencing platform Zoom has also suspended its compliance with data requests from the city’s authorities, the report said.

Chinese social-media platform TikTok, in response to the new law, has decided to pull its app from Google and Apple app stores in Hong Kong within a week, Reuters reported.

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Published on July 07, 2020
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