The Hong Kong government has admitted that it lost two tablet computers containing the details of 12 households – 46 people – during last summer’s census.
The Census and Statistics Department reported the missing devices to the police last summer. But it only revealed the matter to local media on Tuesday night, days after the Registration and Electoral Office announced that it lost two laptops containing the personal information of all registered voters.
The department told HKFP that one tablet went missing as a census officer was on his way back to his workstation after interviewing households. Another was lost while an officer was eating at a fast food restaurant.
The department said it was able to delete all contents from the first device using a remote-controlled programme. However, it could not immediately delete the contents of the second, which contained the information of 12 households – 46 people.
It added that the contents of the missing tablets were encrypted, and could only be accessed through an authentication system with dual passwords. The department said it thought the risk of information leakage to be very low, and that the affected households have been notified.
The police confirmed to HKFP that it received two reports of lost tablets from a government department. The first instance was reported to the Yau Ma Tei Police Station on July 24. It was treated as a case of theft, although no arrests have been made so far.
The second instance was reported to the Tai Po Police Station on August 1, and was treated as a case of losing government property.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner told HKFP on Wednesday that it received notice of the two incidents from the Census and Statistics Department.
“The office has already completed a procedural review of the incidents, and is satisfied with the remedial measures taken by the Census and Statistics Department,” it added.
“As users of data, public and private institutions must treat personal information of interviewees in accordance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance,” Privacy Commissioner Stephen Wong said in the office’s response.
“Institutions must take practical measures to guarantee that personal information will not be read, treated, deleted, lost or used without authorisation or by accident.”
Correction 14:00: A previous version of this piece incorrectly stated that the lost devices were laptops. In fact, they were tablets.