A senior United States official expressed concern that technology companies in Hong Kong may be sending over user data to China, said The Guardian. This allegation came after a new law was implemented to fight national security threats.
The US official urged big tech firms to “come clean” regarding the security of user data amidst worries about them complying with China’s secret requests for information.
The official said, “There is a possibility that things that are happening but because of the restrictions put on by the Hong Kong authorities, they would not be able to divulge this.”
They clarified this statement by saying, “The company would be told by mainland authorities ‘you will be breaking the [law] of you reveal the fact that I’m asking for this information.’”
The new law in question lets the Hong Kong government ordered the divulging of sensitive user info if it could help in preventing security risks. Upon the passing of the law, big social media and technology firms including Facebook and Google said that they would “pause” compliance.
However, some parties are doubtful about companies’ ability to avoid complying with the recently passed policy. According to lawyers and US government officials, these firms have the right to disclose user info if they received legal demands.
Two of the biggest tech companies Facebook and Google did not reply to requests for statements. Meanwhile, Microsoft, another big technology player, said, “As we would with any new legislation, we are reviewing the new law to understand its implications.”
Microsoft also noted that over the past years, it “received a relatively small number of requests from Hong Kong authorities, but we are pausing our response to these requests as we conduct our review.’
Regarding the implications of the new law, studies conducted by different groups noted that it violates international laws, said another The Guardian report. Moreover, it is deemed to infringe on fundamental rights and lacked precision.
Activists and journalists from Hong Kong have also expressed similar concerns. HK activist Glacier Kwong said that this new law opens possibilities of her ending up like journalist Shi Tao who was imprisoned after Yahoo disclosed info on her report about the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Other critics of the new policy noted the importance of tech companies being transparent, honest, and with integrity when it comes to the information they provide after legal demands from China.