Webb Stops ID List, Hong Kong Probes Amid Privacy Debate

David Webb, a corporate-governance activist in Hong Kong, said his website has suspended publication of the identity-card numbers of more than 1,100 people after an inquiry from the city’s privacy commissioner.

Webb-site.com, which publishes commentary and information including the composition of corporate boards in the city, posted the Hong Kong identity card numbers starting on Feb. 12. The list was suspended after Webb-site.com received an inquiry from Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Webb said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Hong Kong is considering changing its laws to make tracing the personal details of company directors in the city more difficult. The proposal, which comes amid increased scrutiny of the wealth held by Hong Kong and Chinese officials and their families, would obscure the residential addresses and full identification numbers of a company’s directors to the public from the first quarter next year.

“A compliance check on an online database containing the ID numbers of more than 1,100 people is under way to stop possible personal data breach,” the privacy commission said in a statement posted to its website, and dated yesterday. “The PCPD does not rule out the possibility of taking further enforcement actions.”

The statement did not identify Webb-site.com specifically and officials at the commission could not be reached to comment outside of normal business hours.

The information on Webb-site.com comes from public sources, and aims to increase transparency and combat money-laundering, fraud and corruption, Webb said in yesterday’s statement. When it was posted, Webb said the list included the ID numbers of some of the city’s “well-known billionaires.”

“The fact that certain ID card numbers can be found on public registers does not mean they are no longer ‘personal data’,” the PCPD said in its statement yesterday.

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