The New Macau Association (ANM) demanded the government halt the co-operation agreement with Alibaba for the development of Macau as a ‘Smart City,’ claiming the city’s population had not been consulted before the agreement was inked and due to doubts about the government’s proper use of the data collected.
On August 4, the Alibaba Group signed an agreement with local authorities to develop the MSAR into a ‘Smart City’ in two phases by 2021 through the use of cloud data collection technology.
With the group’s subsidiary Alibaba Cloud fronting the project, the agreement proposes establishing a cloud computing centre to promote Big Data usage in Macau in order increase efficiency and further improve the city’s tourism, transportation, healthcare, governance and talent development.
According to social activist and former ANM Vice-President Jason Chao the Alibaba Group and the Macau Government “make two questionable partners,” alleging that the local government and the Chinese company have a “questionable record” in terms of respecting residents’ and users’ privacy.
The Association has previously complained that the Judiciary Police attempted to seize citizens’ data collected during the 2014 Civil Referendum, stating the Office for Personal Data Protection (GPDP) had authorised such collection.
With regard to Alibaba, ANM mentioned a dispute Chinese courier service SF Express had this year with Cainiao Network Technology – the logistics unit of the Chinese e-commerce giant – with SF Express claiming it was removed as a delivery option by Alibaba for refusing to share data with the company.
“The residents [of Macau] have legitimate reasons to express concerns over a ‘horizontal integration of data’ from all government data bodies using Alibaba’s services. The physical presence of data in Macau (local storage of data) is just a basic statutory requirement and is, in no way, an excuse for the government’s non-transparency,” the group’s release observed.
According to the deal with Alibaba, a cloud computing centre would be set up in the city to sustain the new ‘Urban Brain,’ with the first phase to be concluded in June 2019 and the second by June 2021.
The Association also criticised the lack of a public tender process in granting the project of construction of a cloud infrastructure to Alibaba, considering that the Macau Government had “deviated” from its “self-proclaimed principle that public money should be spent worthwhile”.
Consequently, ANM demanded the Macau Government rescind the agreement until the ‘Smart City’ plan is available for public scrutiny and citizens are assured they can withdraw their consent to data being processed by Alibaba.
The Association also demanded the government make ‘Open Data’ a priority for future government projects so that residents can make full use of the intelligence produced by data analysis.
“Open Data is a new trend in developed democracies (…) The exclusive use of such data intelligence by the Macau Government would only benefit the authorities. Through Open Data, all citizens, especially those with technical capabilities, would have a chance to use the value of the data,” Mr. Chao said yesterday.
Most rigorous in Asia
Meanwhile, Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi Fan said in a release yesterday that “the MSAR had the most rigorous data protection legislation in Asia” because the city’s Personal Data Protection Law mirrored European Union regulations.
According to Secretary Chan, any services or institutions responsible for development of the ‘Smart City’ and e-government concepts were “bound to secrecy,” and pledged no private information would be transferred to “separate institutions”
She added that in order to develop the concept of e-government, authorities had already finalised the process of simplifying “dozens of inter-department procedures”.
“The platforms for the dissemination of official information will be gradually unified, reinforcing the exchange of information at internal level, in order to create greater facilities for the population by reducing their travel and delivery of documents among the various public services,” the Secretary claimed.