Under the rapid growth and fast penetration of technological innovations such as internet and e-mail communication under a neo-liberal economic order since the 80s, people in Hong Kong become highly technology-mediated nowadays in their daily lives across different disciplines including political, economic and cultural activities. One side of the arguments suggested that legal protection of privacy in Hong Kong developed in the pre-digital era is not applicable to the digital world. This has posed unprecedented challenges to privacy protection in recent years. However, another side raised that personal privacy is no longer important to the individuals in the digital world nowadays. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, argued “privacy is dead” by elaborating that privacy is only an obsolete social norm. He believed people enjoy sharing their personal information publicly online nowadays. In response to Mark’s claim, this paper will review the importance of privacy by re-examining the concepts of privacy as suggested by Jurgen Habermas and Beate Roessler, who related privacy with individual autonomy and construction of personal identity.

A case study approach was chosen to review and discuss the effectiveness of the privacy laws in Hong Kong in the first part of the study. Yahoo! Shitao case in 2005 was selected to be scrutinized in this paper as this case touches on a number of controversial privacy issues uniquely to this digital era such as definition of “personal data” in digital realm and cross-border data transfer etc. The paper is to unfold the unprecedented challenges posed to privacy protection and the ambiguity of the local legal legislations under the development information and communication technologies in an information society. This is also to point out that the vagueness is actually authorizing and legalising privacy intrusion and surveillance practices in the society.

Furthermore, this study also aims to examine privacy intrusion and surveillance by introducing a cultural studies perspective. Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality is employed as a framework to understand the development of technologies and surveillance from the 18th century to the information age nowadays. It is to provide an alternative account on technologies, surveillance and the normalisation of ubiquitous surveillance nowadays under a neo-liberal framework.

Recommended Citation

POON, Hoi-yu Polly (2013). Right to privacy and surveillance in a technology-mediated society. Cultural Studies@Lingnan, 36. Retrieved from http://commons.ln.edu.hk/mcsln/vol36/iss1/8/