A Hong Kong telecoms worker has been accused of sharing online the personal details of a police inspector’s father after using his company computer to unlawfully access the data of public figures, officers and their families during last year’s anti-government protest movement.
Opening the trial on Monday, prosecutors said Chan King-hei, 33, saved the personal data of 29 individuals and recorded the addresses of 28 police quarters, as registered on Hong Kong Telecommunications’ computer system, despite the fact that he had no work-related reason or authority to search for those clients in the first place.
Prosecutors also told the District Court that Chan had later admitted to impulsively sharing some of the information, specifically details relating to an inspector’s father, on a doxxing group on social media after he noticed most of the already published personal data online was incorrect and felt the need to share accurate information he had verified.
Chan, however, is seeking to strike those statements from the evidence, claiming he was forced to surrender the password to his phone, and was intimidated into making involuntary admissions without the presence of his lawyers, when he wanted to be represented.
Chan has pleaded not guilty before District Judge Frankie Yiu Fun-che to three counts of obtaining access to a computer with a view to dishonest gain for himself or another, one count of disclosing personal data obtained without consent, and another count of loitering.
Acting senior public prosecutor Human Lam Hiu-man said more than 2,000 police officers and 1,000 family members had been doxxed, cyberbullied and harassed since June of 2019.
The time frame coincided with the beginning of the anti-government protests, which were sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, but expanded to include broader issues such as police accountability and universal suffrage.
One doxxing group that sprang up amid the protests was a Telegram channel known as “Dadfindboy”, which published personal information on police officers and their families submitted by subscribers to the administrator account, @tanakayotsuba.
Among those doxxed was the police inspector, who was given the tag “#A503” by the channel in a post detailing his unique identification number and full name. The initial post was published at about 8.50pm on September 7, and his address was also disclosed the following day.
He has since been granted anonymity by the court.
Lam said Chan was arrested on September 22 last year after an officer in Hung Hom Police Station noticed him loitering and taking pictures from a nearby car park, causing her to fear for her personal safety and that of her colleagues.
He was found to be carrying three mobile phones and his company staff card.
Under caution, Chan said: “I went the wrong way, I shouldn’t have.”
A subsequent search of his Samsung device purportedly showed that Chan had sent a tip to the channel administrator under the subject line “#A503 revealing family and home numbers”, stating the Chinese and English names, phone number and identity card number of the inspector’s father, who was a client of his then employer.
The father, according to Lam, had not made any inquiries or requests from the company between June and September last year, and had since reported feeling psychologically harmed because of the disclosure.
Chan does not dispute that he twice used the man’s residential number to search for his personal data on September 9.
Lam, meanwhile, said the same Samsung phone also contained a picture of Hung Hom Police Station.
She further revealed that investigators had found two word documents on Chan’s company computer, which was seized from a Sha Tin office.
One document was said to contain the full names, identity card numbers, client numbers and registered addresses of three public figures who were company clients.
The other document allegedly contained 28 addresses and the personal data of 20 officers and six relatives.
Lam also noted that Chan had signed an agreement promising not to search, store or disclose clients’ information without authority before the company hired him in December of 2013.
Chan left Hong Kong Telecommunications on September 25 last year.
He has a clear record in Hong Kong.
Prosecutors will call their first of 17 witnesses when the trial continues on Tuesday.
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