The Privacy Commissioner said on Wednesday that the Education University had violated data protection principles by enabling the release of surveillance camera footage of two people suspected of being behind a poster insulting a government official.
The university itself contacted the watchdog over the leaking of images of two men who are believed to have put up a poster on a campus notice board taunting Education Undersecretary Christine Choi shortly after the death of her son on September 8.
The commissioner’s office said its probe had found that the university's security centre had prepared the still images from CCTV footage and sent them to the institution's senior management via WhatsApp. Some members in the instant messaging group then forwarded the pictures to 13 staff members, as well as a student.
The watchdog said the message was sent to ask the recipients to try to identify the two men pictured, but there was no reminder that the images were confidential and should not be forwarded.
It warned that the images could have spread to hundreds of people within minutes and nothing could have been done about it. The stills were later published by some of the city’s newspapers.
The Privacy Commissioner criticised the university for failing to take steps to safeguard unauthorised access to personal data, which is a violation of a data security principle under the territory’s privacy laws.
The watchdog said the university has accepted the criticism and has formulated policies and guidelines on the use of surveillance camera footage, including the need to keep personal information private.
The Privacy Commissioner, Stephen Wong, said violating a data protection principle is not a punishable offence. He said because the Education University has already taken advice from his office about privacy protection, the commission will not take any further action over the case.
The poster, which was widely condemned, congratulated Choi on the death of her son. Its appearance followed that of banners and posters at several universities calling for Hong Kong independence.