HK needs legislation on AI technology: watchdog

The Consumer Council on Thursday urged the government to introduce laws on the use of artificial intelligence (AI), after its survey found a majority of respondents were concerned about digital data privacy.

Currently, there is no specific legislation on AI in Hong Kong, only guidelines issued by government bodies such as the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.

The council surveyed 1,219 online shoppers from October to November last year and found that only around 30 percent trusted AI.

Announcing the survey results, council chairman Clement Chan said the government should consider introducing legislation to better regulate AI technology.

He said such legislation is needed to protect consumer rights, for example, when it comes to online traders using algorithms for product recommendation.

“Obviously a guideline is only suggestion for best practices. And obviously, that goes without saying, a guideline hasn’t got much consequence to bear… Based on experiences in other jurisdictions, I think definitely development towards a more formal set of legislation is essential,” he said.

More than 70 percent of the survey respondents also said they were worried about excessive data collection on the internet.

The council said it looked at the privacy policies of 112 local e-commerce platforms. While 90 percent disclosed their purposes for data collection, around one in 10 collected data irrelevant to a transaction, such as consumers’ income, education and employment status.

Sixty percent of the online shoppers surveyed admitted that they didn’t read privacy policies, or didn’t even know they existed.

Chan said online traders have to be more transparent when collecting data from customers.

“Collecting information like that is okay as long as they [the traders] make it very clear to the consumers the purpose of collecting such data and the associated security data relating to those data collected, such as retention period, and how are they going to use their data,” he said.

The council also reminded consumers to check privacy settings regularly and pay attention to terms and conditions on websites.

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