Tue, Oct 10, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Ko’s plan poses a privacy dilemma

By Chao Che-sheng 趙哲聖

Following his suggestion to use closed-circuit television (CCTV) to impose fines for illegal parking, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is planning to promote the installation of cameras in cars and on scooters.

Ko’s suggestions to make use of thousands of surveillance cameras to keep an eye on city residents has raised privacy concerns, but perhaps even more worrying is the Ministry of the Interior’s plan to issue chip-embedded ID cards that would double as Citizen Digital Certificates. The combination of a wide range of data on a single card could increase the risk of privacy breaches.

The wide use of Internet and surveillance technologies has made it extremely easy for people to access private information that they would not have been able to obtain otherwise, blurring the boundaries between public and private.

Privacy provides protection, but as it becomes ever easier to anonymously access and reveal private information about others, the definition of privacy is changing.

Widely shared CCTV footage offers a truckload of evidence for whoever might be interested in using it, especially the media, which use it as free material, and Internet denizens, who compile and share it. This has encouraged voyeurism and promoted an environment where people monitor each other.

Ko’s plan involves using dashboard camera footage to crack down on crime and traffic violations, although those cameras were designed to be used as a passive monitoring tool for self-protection.

According to Ko, drivers will be encouraged to be “busybodies” and help crack down on illegal activities by submitting their dashboard camera footage as evidence of crimes or traffic violations. Providers of such footage are to be monetarily rewarded.

However, this idea could lead to people using the footage to attack others. Such footage could easily go viral through dissemination by attention-craving netizens.

Despite the dashboard camera’s original purpose of simply recording one’s driving history, Ko’s plan could lead to its abuse.

Another possible consequence of the policy, and perhaps even more worrying, is the formation of a culture in which such surveillance becomes invasive and Internet users begin to police each other like the government or the police, which would have both direct and indirect effects on the social atmosphere.

For example, private information stored on the new all-in-one ID cards will be left at the mercy of government employees, who could abuse the information if they decided to disregard ethical norms.

In addition, there is the danger of data leaks as a result of hacking. Although there will be measures in place to prevent the worst possible situations from happening, there are simply too many factors that can lead to security breaches.

In today’s digitally dominated world, it is impossible to keep private information secret from government agencies, organizations and companies.

When someone uses the Internet, their Web browser saves their browsing history. When they “like” a post on Facebook, it leaves a record that others can trace, and when people search for goods online, their shopping preferences are collected by the site.

In addition, EasyCards, National Health Insurance cards and Electronic Toll Collection tags also contain detailed information about personal histories — from medical records, travel routes and times to other things.

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