Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group has been accused of violating the personal privacy rights of its employers after the South China Morning Post discovered it monitors the private social media activity of its employees for negative comments about the company.

Galaxy Entertainment

Galaxy Entertainment Group’s digital media marketing is accused of seriously overstepping the mark after Typhoon Hato, when many of its employees complained to authorities about their working conditions. (Image: Galaxy Entertainment Group)

According to SCMP, Galaxy adopted the policy following the criticism it received in the wake of Typhoon Hato.

In August 2017, the category 10 typhoon swept into Macau, killing 16 people. Forecasters had failed to predict the severity of the storm — the worst to strike Macau in 50 years — and casinos were largely unprepared.

Casino workers from across the enclave — not just Galaxy properties — complained they had been expected to attend work, despite the life-threatening conditions, and faced wage deductions for being late or absent.

Meanwhile, local news media reported that “hundreds” of Galaxy workers complained about unpaid overtime and insufficient rest time to Macau’s Labour Affairs Bureau.

‘Neutralizing Negativity’

But SCMP has learned that, in reaction to criticism, Galaxy sought the services of Hong Kong-based digital marketing company, YouFind.

According to internal documents obtained by the newspaper, YouFind was tasked with monitoring employees’ online activity and “weeding out” comments or narratives detrimental to the company, while creating positive comments to “neutralize negativity.”

Employees expressed dismay at the revelations, telling SCMP that Galaxy’s behavior was tantamount to “spying” and akin to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

But the in a statement on Wednesday, Galaxy claimed it had done no wrong

“In accordance with entirely standard global industry practice, Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) has appointed outsourcing suppliers to provide social media marketing services to GEG in order to measure and enhance the group’s online social media presence,” it said.

“GEG has not and will not authorise any illegal use of social media. GEG proactively fulfils its social responsibilities and strives to ensure that the conduct of its business complies with the laws of [Macau and Hong Kong].

Anonymous Whistleblower

But since both Galaxy and YouFind are listed in Hong Kong, they have a duty to abide by that jurisdiction’s corporate privacy regulations.

These state that “employers … have a responsibility to ensure that a privacy policy pertaining to employee monitoring is developed and brought to the notice of employees before the monitoring is introduced.”

But an anonymous whistleblower told SCMP this had not been the case.

It was absolutely a secret contract, normal procedures were not followed,” the source said. “If it is all ethical, above board, and in complete compliance with all the necessary laws, why all the secrecy?”

The Hong Kong privacy regulator said it was monitoring the situation and will take action where “proper and appropriate.”