Editorial:Loopholes of LeaveHomeSafe Necessitate Its Overhaul

【明報專訊】Another person related to the cluster of COVID-19 infections at the Moon Palace restaurant has been diagnosed with the disease. Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan has stated that the government has successfully tracked down most of those who dined in at the same time as the patient and has sent them to a quarantine centre. However, there are still about 30 diners who have not been found. The reason is that the LeaveHomeSafe app that the government relies on cannot track down those who do not report themselves voluntarily.

The origin of the local infections linked to Moon Palace was an aircrew member of Cathay Pacific. Despite being exempt from quarantine upon returning to Hong Kong, he went about the city in violation of medical surveillance regulations. His visit to an eatery resulted in the infection of diners sitting 10 metres away, even with the presence of a separating screen. Now it is alleged that the infections were caused by the improper installation of air purifiers. In late February last year, a similar incident occurred in a restaurant at Tsim Sha Tsui's K11 Musea, resulting in the infection of 50 people. The government ordered all restaurants to install air purifiers. Now that the cause of the failure of the air purifiers installed at Moon Palace has been found, the issue needs to be given proper regard.

Despite the restaurant's installation of air purifiers following the government's instructions, they have failed to stop the spread of the virus effectively. Professor Yuen Kwok-yung believes that the air purifiers might have been installed at wrong locations. The incident has once again exposed the fact that the government's anti-pandemic measures are worse than reactive. Since the issue of the instructions in March last year, has the government ever reviewed the effectiveness of the installation of air purifiers? Has it ever made inspections to measure the directions and scopes of possible viral infections in restaurants? The mere issuance of instructions—unaccompanied by the conduct of regular reviews and data which would enable improvement—has caused a repeat of the K11 incident at Moon Palace.

When the government introduced the LeaveHomeSafe app, the biggest scepticism it encountered was the issue of privacy protection. Therefore, the government adopted the most ''extreme'' approach, leaving the public to do everything ''voluntarily''. It is indeed necessary to protect privacy, and the citizens' concerns are reasonable. However, the principle of privacy protection is the use of strict and effective measures to convince citizens that their personal data will be protected even if it is obtained and stored.

Such protective measures include clearly defining the responsibilities and limitations of the authority of data controllers and data processors, determining who has the right to obtain which part of one's private information, what confidentiality measures are taken in the procedure, as well as the measures concerning the storage of information and its duration. There are strict regulations concerning these matters in Hong Kong's laws, and members of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data have a set of professional and detailed rules and regulations for execution, together with a mechanism for oversight. However, regarding the LeaveHomeSafe app, the government has not taken the initiative to announce various protection measures to persuade the public to trust this system. Instead, it has abandoned this effective system, making it impossible for the LeaveHomeSafe app to perform its best functions.

Now that government expert advisers have criticised the tracking function of the app, the SAR government should explain how it could improve the problem in the future. If the fifth wave of COVID-19 breaks out on a wide scale, it will indeed be necessary to put in place a thorough reform of the tracking function of the app. The SAR government should also prepare a set of recommendations and try its best to convince the public to accept it, so as to effectively stop the spread of the virus and minimise the harm of a large-scale infection.

明報社評 2022.1.3:安心出行顯漏洞 徹底改革此其時





保護的措施包括,明確界定資料控管者(data controller)、資料處理者(data processor)的責任與權限,誰有權獲得個人信息的哪些部分,處理過程中有何保密措施,並且界定儲存的措施和期限。香港法律對此有嚴格規管,個人資料私隱專員有專業的執行細則與監督機制。可是,特區政府對於安心出行,不主動公布各種保護措施,說服市民信任這套系統,而是放棄這套有效的系統,導致安心出行無法發揮最佳功能。


■/ Glossary 生字 /

allege:to state sth as a fact but without giving proof

reactive:reacting to events or situations rather than acting first to change or prevent sth

confidentiality:a situation in which you expect sb to keep information secret


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