Google announced on Friday that it will stop responding directly to data requests from Hong Kong authorities and will treat the territory in the same manner it treats mainland China in such transactions.
The US tech giant has not produced any data since the sweeping new national security law took force in June and would not directly respond to such requests henceforth, it added in the statement.
The move comes in the wake of Beijing’s enactment of the new law that targets crimes including subversion of state power, collusion with foreign powers, secession and terrorism.
Google specialises in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, a search engine, cloud computing, software, and email. It also owns YouTube.
“As always, authorities outside the U.S. may seek data needed for criminal investigations through diplomatic procedures,” Google said in an emailed statement.
Google reviewed all requests for user data and pushed back on “overly broad ones” to protect the privacy of users, it added.
The Washington Post newspaper reported earlier on Friday that Google would stop responding directly to data requests from Hong Kong authorities, implying the company would now treat Hong Kong effectively the same as mainland China in such dealings.
The national security law in Hong Kong has drawn criticism from the administration of US President Donald Trump and further raised United States-China tensions after Washington’s decision to end the former British colony’s special status under US law.
Google notified Hong Kong police on Thursday that it would direct officials to pursue any requests for data through a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the US, which involves routing through the US Justice Department, the Washington Post reported.
In July, Facebook Inc, Google and Twitter Inc suspended processing government requests for user data in Hong Kong.
Tech companies have long operated freely in Hong Kong, a financial hub where internet access has been unaffected by the firewall imposed in mainland China, which blocks Google, Twitter and Facebook. (Source: The Straits Times)