Tue, Mar 10, 2009 - Page 1 News List

'Big Brother' bill stirs up DPP anger

AN END TO PRIVACY? The Minister of Justice said that it was important to strike a balance between keeping government officials in check and safeguarding privacy

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A meeting of the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee was the scene of heated debate yesterday as legislators argued over whether elected representatives should be able to obtain an individual’s personal information without first informing them.

The legislature is reviewing a draft proposal to amend the Computer-Processed Personal Data Protection Act (電腦處理個人資料保護法).

The amendment seeks to add a clause that allows elected representatives to gather personal information for investigation without the knowledge of the person concerned.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) expressed strong opposition to the proposed amendment.

“This is a Chiu Yi [邱毅] clause,” he said, suggesting that the clause was especially written for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator so he could legally look into personal data and records of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

“I’ve heard that the Ministry of Justice and Judicial Yuan all support [the amendment]. The DPP opposes this,” Gao said.

Several other members of the DPP also opposed the proposal, saying that the clause would seriously damage an individual’s right to privacy.

Defending his proposal, KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said that elected representatives have the right and responsibility to protect citizens from corruption.

“I strongly believe that [elected representatives] should not be required to inform the individual who is being investigated, because if I’m in the middle of trying to expose corruption, and I’m required to inform [the person] first, then I would have no corruption to expose,” he said.

“However, if I make a mistake in accusing [someone] of corruption, I would be held legally responsible,” he said.

Hsieh accused the media of misinterpreting the proposal and emphasized that an elected representative would be legally and morally responsible for his or her actions.

Asked for comment, Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) said, “We would have to thoroughly examine this proposal.”

Wang said it was important to strike a balance between an elected representative’s right to keep government officials in check and preserving an individual’s right to privacy.

The meeting ended without consensus.

At a separate setting, DPP caucus whip Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said yesterday that the party was opposed to the measure as it would violate human rights.

“The measure could be used as a tool to attack political rivals during campaigns and for collecting information on voters in order to win their votes,” Lee said.

He said that while it has been common for legislators to try to stir up scandals without any solid evidence, the measure could make things worse.

DPP Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said the law was meant to protect personal information from being leaked and that giving privileged individuals the right to access such information would be against the spirit of the law.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG

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