The Standard – China’s Business Newspaper

26Jul10

Octopus in for privacy grilling after data furor

Octopus Cards, which earlier admitted sharing customers’ data with two merchants, said it is discussing ways to terminate the contracts signed with them.

Thomas Yau

Monday, July 26, 2010

Octopus Cards, which earlier admitted sharing customers’ data with two merchants, said it is discussing ways to terminate the contracts signed with them.

That came with company officials set to meet the privacy commissioner today.

Unionist Wong Kwok-hing asked the Legislative Council to demand details from Octopus on how much it got from disclosing the personal data of customers and, if necessary, to use the Powers and Privileges Ordinance to get the information.

Octopus also apologized to the public for providing personal data to merchants for marketing purposes, saying it would no longer do so. It said it was also “actively working” with Cigna and CPP to terminate the contracts.

The Federation of Trade Unions also said an investigation it conducted concluded that the Mass Transit Railway was the “big tiger” behind Octopus with 57.4 percent of its shares and that it did not do enough to prevent the disclosure of customer data.

In a report released yesterday, the union said that while MTR claimed it could not control the card company’s board of directors because it had only 49 percent of the voting rights, some of MTR’s senior staff such as general managers Jeny Yeung Mei-chun and Herbert Hui Leung- wah were on the Octopus Rewards board of directors.

In addition, Octopus chief executive Prudence Chan Pik-wah was listed in MTR’s annual report as “key corporate management.”

“By using MTR’s leading role in the city’s transport system and property development, Octopus Cards has been expanding dramatically. MTR in return, became Octopus Cards’ major supplier in many services,” the report said.

These services include the Octopus Card being used as ID cards in MTR-managed residential blocks’ security systems and checking students’ attendance in schools. “It is impossible that MTR is unaware of Octopus’s development,” it added.

The FTU urged the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data to include representatives from MTR in its hearing and for the company to appear before the Legco panel.

“Let’s see if the privacy commissioner can burst the big tiger behind Octopus,” Wong said.

An MTR spokeswoman said Octopus was an independent company and that it should explain the issue.

via The Standard – China’s Business Newspaper.

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