Next pays for data breach on star's son

Local | Wallis Wang 16 Jun 2021

Three Next Digital defendants were yesterday fined a total of HK$120,000 for publishing the birth certificate of actress Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi's third son.

Next Magazine published the birth certificate on January 28, 2019, following Marcus Cheung's birth in 2018 after obtaining it through a search of records.

Next Digital, publisher Element 5 Digital and the magazine's chief editor, Mak King-hing, pleaded guilty in a West Kowloon magistrates' court to disclosing personal data obtained without consent and were each fined HK$40,000.

Reporter Cheng Ching, 40, was bound over for a year on HK$2,000 for aiding and abetting the disclosure.

Principal magistrate Ivy Chui Yee-mei said the case involved a child's birth registration and no one should disclose it.

In mitigation, the defense said Mak has admitted not being sensitive enough to Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance concerns. He has since sent guidelines to employees and warned them not to publish others' private information.

The court heard Mak joined Next as a reporter in 1995 and reported on important livelihood issues, and that the case was a huge "shame and stigma" on his career of more than 20 years.

The defense added that Mak would publish an apology on the magazine's website and appealed for a lenient sentence. It also said that this is the first time any media company was prosecuted under the ordinance, which could deter other media from committing similar offenses.

The prosecution noted that the offense carries a maximum penalty of a HK$1 million fine and five-year imprisonment, but Chui decided on a HK$40,000 fine, as the defendants are first-time offenders and had pleaded guilty.

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