Tech experts make their picks on what policies they want to see Hong Kong’s government address in 2020.
From issues like cybersecurity to digitising the judiciary, tech policies in Hong Kong are broad in scope with many avenues open to explore. Upon entering the new decade, there are a number of areas where policies have been lacking or may need an update according to local tech experts.
In no particular order, three tech experts weighed in on what topics they would like to see the HKSAR government to address this year. The issues these experts discussed include privacy, cybersecurity, cyberbullying, judiciary digitisation, and virtual asset regulations.
Dominic Wai, partner in charge of emerging technologies and financial crime practice at ONC Lawyers, called for more transparency regarding the government’s execution of wiretapping and other surveillance activities. In regard to the messages that are taken from wiretapping, and Wai is concerned that the government has not established more controls and oversight over these activities.
The Interception of Communications and Surveillance Ordinance governs the powers law enforcement agencies are entitled to when conducting phone tapping and the collection of evidence. According to Wai, there is currently no jurisdiction to deal with documents or messages seized from smartphones, which includes applications such as WhatsApp or WeChat.
“One area there should be more control over are the messages that are being taken by law enforcement agents [and] how they could use that or deal with that,” he stipulated. “That is again not too clear and there isn’t much control over their own internal control and guidance.”
Hong Kong needs to raise the standards of its cybersecurity systems, claims Michael Gazeley, Managing Director and Co-Founder of security service provider Network Box.
A new cybersecurity standard needs to be introduced that promotes “actual implementation, not just awareness,” he added. Cybersecurity is a well-known issue amongst organisations, but they usually do not require setting standards that are rigorously maintained or updated.
Part of this standard should include highlighting and mitigating the dangers of overseas cybersecurity products and services, which may contain backdoors, leaving cyber infrastructures vulnerable to attacks. Hong Kong has lagged behind on focusing on this issue, and Gazeley warns that HK should act before its systems are breached and suffer mighty damages.
Joshua Chu, ONC Lawyers’ Consultant specialising Technology Law, encourages the government to be more proactive when it comes to legislation concerning cyberbullying and other cyber-related crimes.
“We don’t have laws on online stalking and cyberbullying,” he elaborated. “These are all not really looked into… For example we still have predators online who take advantage of the fact that we don’t have adequate laws to protect our minors.”
Dominic Wai added that this problem in which the government does not hold much power over an issue is similar to doxxing.
Wai suggested that while common law is the means through which the government handles doxxing, the Legislative Council should consider allocating more powers to the proper Commissioner to control online crime such as cyberbullying and doxxing.
The digitisation of court files and documents
Joshua Chu would like to see Hong Kong one day fully convert to paperless functions one day.
“The courts of Hong Kong are still extremely paper-based,” he lamented. “I think it’s about time for Hong Kong to move in a digital direction in terms of how court proceedings are being conducted.”
In the US, hearings are conducted through telecommunications, and a judge can sit comfortably at home before the bail hearing. In Australia, legal submissions can be done electronically, where only a lawyer is required to show up in court. These digital procedures eliminate the issues of long lines, transportation, and are overall a more convenient means of moving the judicial system to the digital age.
The Court Proceedings (Amendment) Bill, which would allow for the digitisation of judiciary files, was gazetted on 27 December last year. It was introduced in the legislature earlier this month and underwent the first reading of the bill on 8 January. The date to complete its second and third readings are to be determined.
Over seven years in the making, it looks like the government will finally move on to less antiquated means of carrying out legal procedures.
Virtual assets regulations
In November last year, the Security and Futures Commission (SFC) released an updated regulatory framework covering virtual assets. This is a step forward in handling virtual assets, but Joshua Chu remarked that regulatory frameworks “can only do so much.”
Since cryptocurrencies are considered commodities and not under the auspices of the HKMA, legislative framework is needed to manage these new technologies in order to establish a government body to hold jurisdiction and address laws regarding virtual assets.
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