Thu, Dec 13, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Huawei just one of many security challenges

By Chiang Ya-chi 江雅綺

On Dec. 8, the Central News Agency (CNA) cited US magazine The National Interest when reporting that since China’s Huawei Technologies Co (華為) opened its first flagship store in Taiwan in April, the massive use of Huawei products might have created a national security loophole.

However, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said that there is no such national security concern, because the law has long banned the use of critical China-made communication equipment in Taiwan.

At a sensitive moment when Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei (任正非), was released on bail, but ordered to stay in Canada, CNA’s report was especially worrisome.

Although there is nothing wrong with the report itself, it needs to be clarified that the key point of The National Interest’s article was the wide use in Taiwan of “personal devices” made by Huawei.

The NCC was referring to the Regulations for Administration of Mobile Broadband Businesses (行動寬頻業務管理規則) passed in 2013.

As Article 43, Paragraph 9 of the regulations states: “The competent authority shall consult with relevant government entities in consideration of national security when approving or revoking a system development plan.”

So, under the supervision of the NCC, Taiwanese telecoms cannot use equipment made in China for their core networks or base stations.

Whether the telecoms can use Huawei equipment for their own systems and whether Taiwanese can use Huawei cellphones are completely two different things.

Even if there is no national security concern for the telecoms under the NCC’s monitoring, this does not guarantee that national security loopholes caused by the wide use of Huawei products do not exist.

In particular, Taiwan does not ban civil servants from using Huawei products when handling government affairs or documents. So the concern expressed by the magazine might remain a challenge for national security agencies.

Although there is room for improvement in terms of national security awareness about modern hardware devices, fortunately, cyberwarfare and misinformation on the Internet has received much attention after the Nov 24. elections.

The Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) on Sunday reported that the Executive Yuan has proposed a series of draft amendments to the laws against online misinformation.

In addition to imposing heavier punishments for damaging public interest by spreading misinformation online, what deserves more attention is an amendment to the draft digital communications act.

The amendment would require social media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, to fact-check items reported as false by the government or the public, and to remove such items within 24 hours after they are confirmed to be false.

Mostly drawn from German legislation, the amendment attempts to legalize social media platforms’ responsibility to self-regulate, while at the same time improving the transparency of the platforms’ operations.

The issue of whether social media platforms can play their roles as “judges” well should be approached with caution.

However, Taiwan asking social media platforms to take greater responsibility in fact-checking is part of an unavoidable international trend, and the amendment could well serve as a start.

Chiang Ya-chi is an associate professor at National Taipei University of Technology’s Graduate Institute of Intellectual Property.

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