Benny Tai Yiu-ting of Occupy Central fame is set to relaunch a mock nomination and election of the chief executive. The so-called civil referendum uses a mobile app and a website to encourage people to nominate and vote for “candidates”. Critics including the privacy commissioner have expressed alarm. Tai’s previous ThunderGo mobile app debacle was accused by even some pan-democratic candidates in the last Legislative Council election of distorting the voting outcomes by favouring extremist candidates over more mainstream ones. Hong Kong’s unofficial chief executive election opinion poll PopVote back online next week
Compared to that, his latest “referendum” seems harmless enough – that is, until you think about what Tai and his group Citizens United in Action might be doing with the massive personal data they have been collecting from ThunderGo and now this. Do they use them for other purposes; delete them after use; or store them in a database, and for how long? And how vulnerable is their data storage to hacking?
In a rare foray into the city’s fractious politics, the privacy commissioner expressed concerns earlier this month about their handling of personal data from participants. As a result, Tai and his group temporarily halted the “referendum” last week. Now they claim they have resolved the security issues. Perhaps users can take his word for it; they take part at their own risk. The commissioner would do well to continue probing his group and intervene if necessary.