Community & Education Hong Kong Law & Crime

Gov’t will post 3.2m letters of apology to voters about missing election computers

The Registration and Electoral Office (REO) is to mail around 3.2 million letters by post to Hong Kong voters informing them that two computers containing voter information have gone missing.

The REO said in a statement on Thursday evening that the letters will be sent out in batches starting Friday. Around 550,000 voters who have provided email addresses to the office will receive an email notification instead.

vote ad

An election ad for the 2012 Legislative Council elections. File Photo: GovHK.

‘Puzzling’

The REO alerted police on Monday evening when it found out that a notebook computer containing the personal data of all 3.78 million voters in the city went missing. The data included the names, addresses and identity card numbers of all voters.

The REO also lost another computer that contained the names of 1,194 Election Committee members.

It said its staff members kept the computers in a locked room at AsiaWorld-Expo, which was used as a backup polling station for the chief executive election last Sunday. Closed-circuit televisions were installed at the venue, it said.

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Lawmakers have questioned why the workers brought computers containing the personal data of all voters when only 1,194 people could vote in the leadership election. The authorities have not given an explanation.

But local newspaper Ming Pao interviewed a staff member of the REO, who said the case was “puzzling” as the computer with voter information should not have been taken to AsiaWorld-Expo.

The person said a computer password and a software password – linked to the work accounts of REO staffers – were set up to protect the data, but it was not impossible to crack the passwords.

asia-world-expo

AsiaWorld-Expo. Photo: GovHK.

The REO earlier said in a statement that the voter information was “protected by multiple encryptions which are extremely difficult to break through.” It added that no voting records were stored on the missing computers.

Meanwhile, legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok said he had a phone call with Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam. He quoted Tam as saying that police believed the theft case was suspicious and not solely for commercial purposes.

The REO said on Thursday that it had urged government departments and organisations from various sectors to take measures to forestall identity theft crimes using the stolen data.

Raymond Tam

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen. File Photo: GovHK.

The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the REO will answer questions from the legislature’s Panel on Constitutional Affairs as soon as the authorities complete the probe.

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung came under fire on Thursday for rejecting urgent requests filed by lawmakers from across the political spectrum to query officials over the missing computers. Pro-democracy lawmakers have urged the president to disclose his understanding of “urgency,” as he has not approved any such request since taking office.

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Gov't will post 3.2m letters of apology to voters about missing election computers