CCTL Transnational Economic Law and Dispute Settlement Group seminar – ‘DataFlow 2 Go’ (Online)

Expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative and Greater Bay Area, together with the rapid rise of the digital economic transformation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have increased data flows in and out of Hong Kong. Data flows are clearly important in a wide range of sectors in which Hong Kong has or aims to acquire a leading position such as finance, commerce and e-commerce, collaboration (e.g. via remote meeting or lessons) and artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

In short, data flows are important to Hong Kong’s economic prosperity but to date the jurisdiction has not taken active steps to formulate a clear, coherent and comprehensive policy.  Data Flow 2 Go, and the larger project of which this is a part funded by the Hong Kong Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office’s Public Policy Research Funding Scheme for the project entitled Regulating Cross-Border Data: A Public Policy Framework for Hong Kong (Project No. 2019.A4.064.19D), asks the question whether Hong Kong needs to consider a more coordinated approach to managing cross-border data flows.

Data Flow 2 Go, organised by the Transnational Economic Law and Dispute Settlement (TELDS) group at Centre for Comparative and Transnational Law, gathered academic and industry specialists both in government and business to address these pivotal issues. Some of the revelations and insights provided during the session included:

  • The importance of data flows to Hong Kong’s attractiveness as a place to do business and for the competitiveness of local businesses;
  • Considerations of access to personal data by American national security agencies in the Schrems I and II decisions;
  • The extraterritorial effect of legal initiatives on Hong Kong’s business and legal environment, such as the effect of Europe’s GDPR;
  • Hong Kong’s unique advantage in allowing local users the ability access to free data flows from China and the rest of the world;
  • How companies are deliberately introducing data minimization policies to rid themselves of unnecessary data;
  • The design and nature of various policies such as those governing privacy;
  • The use of privacy to achieve competitive advantage;
  • Why the fact that s.33 of the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance is not in effect has not been a major issue to companies transacting across borders and boundaries; and
  • Why data flows are critical to future innovations, such as autonomous vehicles and AI.

The ubiquity of data and the global interconnection of systems renders cross border data governance more complex, and the continuous and fast-moving technological transformation more difficult to address. The Data Flow 2 Go event provided important new awareness, but could only scratch the surface of such complexity and highlight the need for more research in this area where fast moving technological transformation challenges existing legal structures and requires proactive policies.

Speakers included:

  • Stephen Kai-Yi Wong, Barrister in Law, Gilt Chambers and former Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data;
  • Charles Ng, Associate Director-General of Investment Promotion, Invest Hong Kong;
  • Douglas Arner, Director, Asian Institute of International Financial Law, University of Hong Kong;
  • Chester Soong, Principle Consultant at Security Consulting Services and former Chairman of the Internet Society of Hong Kong;
  • Urszula McCormack, Partner Cross Border Finances & Technology, King & Wood Mallesons;
  • Simon Lacey, Senior Lecturer in International Trade, University of Adelaide and former Vice President, Global Government Affairs, Huawei Technologies,
  • Andrew Mitchell,  Faculty of Law, Monash University
  • Bryan Mercurio, Simon F.S. Li Professor of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Chair of CCTL – TELDS