Gov’t says anti cybercrime bill not intended to violate personal privacy

Thursday, April 2, 2009
Issue 659, Page 4
Word count: 414
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Wording in the anti cyber-crime bill will be modified as the government agreed with the lawmakers that some of the current provisions could arouse concern over the police abuse of power and individual privacy.

The Third Standing Committee continued to exchange opinions regarding the proposed provisions with the officials including from the Legal Affairs Bureau (DSAJ), Judiciary Police (PJ) and the Telecom Regulation Bureau (DSRT) at the Legislative Assembly yesterday.

Standing committee president Cheang Chi Keong said after the meeting that the discussion was “very effective”, as a consensus had been reached over many of the issues arisen from the bill.

Article 16 suggests special power to be given to police so that they could seize computer data for the use of evidence from any individuals before a court order is issued.

Such power can be exercised when police authorities “have reasons” to believe that certain computer data will help in criminal investigation.

A number of lawmakers had showed concern about the possible abuse of power by the police force during the first reading of the bill in February.

Lawmakers Ng Kuok Cheong, Jose Pereira Coutinho, Au Kam San and Kwan Tsui Hang were worried that police would exercise the special competency at will, which would then jeopardise individual privacy and basic human rights.

However, Cheang said the government representatives reiterated that the bill was drafted in line with the Code of Criminal Litigation, adding that the purpose of the legislation was never meant to “surpass” the current regulations of the code.

Article 159 of the Code of Criminal Litigation states that police force could only carry out investigation and searches without a prior court approval “when delaying such actions would constitute a serious risk to legal interests and a consent from the person being investigated is obtained”.

At the same time, it also restricts the police force to inform a pre-trial judge “immediately” in order to verify the actions.

The standing committee president said the officials admitted that the current phrasing of the article in the anti cyber-crime bill was “not precise” and would stimulate public concern.

Cheang also said the PJ and the DSRT both believed that the bill, after being modified, will be able to combat computer crimes as well as preserve human rights simultaneously.

The government will conduct changes in the 17 articles within a short period of time, and when the first edition of the revised bill is completed, the standing committee meeting will then be resumed, Cheang said.

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