Hong Kong Privacy chief sees red over DNA staff tests

by jeeg 30. May 2014 19:23

 

The privacy commissioner has described as outrageous a move by an investment company to identify bloodstains in a toilet by taking DNA samples from all female employees.

Senior personal data officer Natalie Poon Kit- lam said the hunt began after management found menstrual-blood stains believed to be left by one of its employees.

Without naming the company due to privacy concerns, Poon said in order to locate the woman, all female employees were asked to take blood tests, with one of them complaining to the Office of the Privacy Commission for Personal Data.

The commissioner did not say if the company had located the employee and what happened to her.

Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam-wang said it was outrageous, unreasonable, unnecessary and unacceptable to collect DNA.

He said the commission has ordered the company to stop collecting the data and to destroy DNA information already collected.

Poon said the act is a serious violation of the privacy rights of employees as DNA data is unique identification that can only be used in serious circumstances like criminal investigations.

"The company should have used alternative ways that did not violate the privacy of employees," Poon said.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said the firm had no right to collect DNA information and the act was "intrusive."

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said there is no law that entitles any organization other than police the right to collect DNA samples for any purpose.

"People can either voluntarily offer their DNA samples or police can collect it for investigation purposes."

He said "if the company had talked the female staff into giving DNA information by putting pressure or threatening them in any way, it does not count as voluntary."

He said it was not just a violation of privacy.

"Hong Kong is a civilized place. This act seriously insults women."

In a separate investigation, a furniture company had collected the fingerprints of its 400 employees to prevent anyone from clocking cards for other colleagues.

The commission said the company was collecting fingerprints unnecessarily and excessively for the purpose of recording attendance.

The fingerprints were wiped out after the commission contacted the company.

 

 

Qi Luo, The Standard

 

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