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Asia Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 1 Nov. 2019 Related reading: Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 22 Nov. 2019

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Dear, privacy pros.

It has been an eventful two weeks with the 41st International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners taking place in Tirana, Albania, last week and IAPP’s ANZ Summit taking place in Sydney, Australia, this week.

For those of you who have been on the road traveling to either (or both) of these events, I hope your journey has been smooth and the homecoming fantastic! Please feel free to share any insights with fellow privacy professionals by submitting an article for publication on the IAPP website or simply posting a comment below.

Looking at some of the articles on the dashboard this week, I am struck by how intertwined the right to privacy and other fundamental rights have become in recent times.

After many months of violence on the streets, Hong Kong has taken steps to ban the use of face masks by protesters seeking to protect their identity from the police. The Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation has been criticized by many for infringing the protesters’ right to privacy, but the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data issued a statement confirming the prohibition is not contrary to the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance unless there is collection or video recording of facial information. The PCPD has also clearly stated the right to privacy is not absolute, and balance will need to be struck with countervailing considerations of public interest, including public order and national security.

Interestingly, Hong Kong’s High Court recently issued an interim injunction banning the publication of personal details, or "doxing," of police officers. Clearly, police officers and their family members are entitled to exercise their right to privacy, as well. Further, the move is aimed at protecting police officers from harassment and possible harm, and therefore also in the public interest as it allows police officers to better discharge their duties. Nevertheless, it is apposite to ask whether an appropriate balance has been struck in both these cases, as public interest encompasses not just considerations about public order and national security, but also an individual’s right to freedom of assembly and free speech.

Another interesting comparison is raised in this article on the abandonment of a proposed law to set up a facial recognition database in Australia, dubbed “The Capability.” While the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security voiced support for the objectives of the database, including battling identity theft and fraud, it agreed with concerns raised by civil society organizations, such as Electronic Frontiers Australia, that greater protection should be afforded to individuals’ right to privacy.

The PJCIS has also recently conducted its third review into the Assistance and Access Act, which allow Australian government and law enforcement agencies to compel tech companies to provide access to encrypted data. The PJCIS has now referred the legislation to the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor for the first time. Perhaps we can cover the outcome of the review in a subsequent edition of the APAC Dashboard Digest.

With that, I wish you happy reading!

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