Independent poll institute linked to police data leak

Top News | Staff reporter 10 Jul 2020

A web user has accused the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute of failing to destroy old survey data, which have been linked to a leak involving details of police officers.

The allegation that information about police officers was leaked from the institute's database was denied by its head Robert Chung Ting-yiu.

The accuser, under the username "Tony Mike," claimed on the messaging platform Telegram that the database is easy to hack. The accuser also posted an image that appears to be a database with the personal information of several officers.

The accusation has sparked concerns as the independent institute is also commissioned to carry out the pan-democratic camp's primary elections over the weekend, although organizers have said they will collect as little information from voters as possible.

The institute responded that the leaked information had not originated from its servers and any data are destroyed six months following the survey's completion.

But Tony Mike said the institute is lying as the accuser posted more information, claiming to have retrieved it from the institute's server.

A screen capture purportedly showed an e-mail conversation between the institute's Winnie Lee Wing-yi and a police officer surnamed Or in 2017, in which Or asked the institute to provide him with the raw data of a survey commissioned by the force in 2013.

The institute agreed to provide the data after removing personal identifiers, although the survey was done four years prior.

But the institute said personal information of officers had been destroyed six months after the completion of the 2013 survey.

"I thought [the institute] said that information had been 'destroyed,' so how is it possible for them to provide raw data to the police officer four years later?" Tony Mike said.

Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Stephen Wong Kai-yi said: "We have initiated a compliance check in accordance with established procedures to find out the relevant facts and to ascertain the situation with the institute."

He added that his office had not received any related complaints as of 5pm yesterday.

Queries were sent to the research institute by The Standard.

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