The Concern over Inspection of Personal Data of Registered Social Workers by members of the Public
It has come to the notice of the Social Workers Registration Board (“the Board”) that there are concern of the Registered Social Workers (“RSWs”) over the protection of their privacy, and that there are hearsay about the inspection of personal data of RSWs by members of the public. We would like to clarify as follows:
1. In accordance with Section 16 of the Social Workers Registration Ordinance (Cap. 505), the Board should maintain a Register of RSWs, which is available to any person for inspection free of charge at the office of the Board at such reasonable times as the Board may direct (i.e. during its office hours). It is specified under Section 16(1) of the Ordinance that the Register should include the following information of RSWs:
(1) Name and address;
(2) The qualification on which the registration is based; and
(3) Any other details that the Board may direct (For your information, the other details that the Board has so far directed to be kept on the Register are: (a) category of registration; (b) registration number; and (c) relevant disciplinary order (if any).
The Board will not keep any information other than the above specified in the Register. The information contained in the Register is to facilitate any member of the public to verify whether a person is a RSW or not. The information is to be used exclusively for this sole purpose. Any other unauthorized uses are strictly prohibited.
2. The Board adopts a rigorous procedure for inspection of the Register. A person who intends to inspect the Register should turn up at the office of the Board in person, no telephone or written enquiries will be entertained. The enquirers will be asked to go through a simple registration procedure, to read the code for inspection and when inspecting, they will be accompanied by a staff member of the Board. The means of downloading, copying, photo-taking, video-recording or photocopying so as to take away or forward or extract any information on the Register is strictly prohibited.
3. The Ordinance does not explicitly require the address used for registration as RSWs to be the residential address, whilst it has to be a valid postal address that can be used by the Board for postal correspondence with RSWs, including but not limited to:
(A) Registered post for notifying RSWs the intention to remove their names from the Register for various reasons as specified under Section 22(4) of the Ordinance, e.g. failing to apply for registration renewal;
(B) Service of summons issued by Disciplinary Committee for attending hearing to give evidence;
(C) Delivery of the registration card and receipt for tax returns after each annual renewal of registration;
(D) Dissemination of election pack for electing the Board members triennially.
To address any inconvenience of RSWs over the disclosure of their address used for registration, RSWs may update such with the Board by providing another valid address via written notice or our online registration system.
4. In order to facilitate a simple and quick access for identity verification of RSWs, enquirers may browse the list of RSWs maintained at the Board's website, which contains the RSW's Chinese and English names, registration number, and the expiry date of current registration. No one can access to information of the address and other personal data of RSWs via our website.
5. The number of public inspection of the Register has always been low, and there is no increase in recent months; The Board has examined the system and its operations, and it is obliged to point out that no members of the public can gain access to personal data of RSWs besides those specified by statute via the on-site inspection or the homepage of the Board.
Dr. Zeno LEUNG
Social Workers Registration Board