Sat, Aug 31, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Experts fear forthcoming risks to Internet freedom

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Experts yesterday expressed concerns over gaps in the nation’s legal system to address threats to national security and Internet freedom that could result from the proposed opening-up of international simple resale (ISR) services to Chinese investors under the cross-strait service trade agreement.

Dubbing the commitment to open ISR services in Taiwan to Chinese investors “an e-version Trojan Horse clause” at a forum in Taipei yesterday, Lin Ying-dar (林盈達), a professor at the Institute of Computer Science and Engineering at National Chiao Tung University, imagined how the country might look in the next five to ten years.

Lin said that China could use Internet communications intercepted from legislators to influence the drafting of laws in Taiwan. Another was the risk of surveillance by Internet providers partially owned by Chinese investors.

ISR, a so-called Type II telecommunications service, refers to all telecommunications service providers other than Type I providers, which install network infrastructure traditionally providing telephone and similar services.

If a country says “no” to the use of network equipment from Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies Co (華為) or from ZTE Corp (中興), the answer to whether to allow Chinese to invest in ISR service providers is an emphatic “no” Lin said.

“Otherwise it would be like a vendor not being allowed to sell a certain kind of medicine to a country, but still being permitted to open a hospital in a country where the medication is used for prescriptions,” he said.

Tsai Zse-hong (蔡志宏), a professor in the department of electrical engineering at National Taiwan University, disputed the claim by the National Communication Commission (NCC), the regulatory authority overseeing the telecommunication industry, that investments by China would be limited by provisions on the use of isolated networks to non-individuals.

The opening-up policy would allow Chinese to invest in content providers, Internet service providers (ISPs), cloud service providers, online community providers and other Type II telecommunications service companies. They could invest in one of the nation’s major network access points, a public network exchange facility where ISPs can connect with one another in peering arrangements, Tsai said.

Should one of the nation’s major network access points be under the control of Chinese investors, it would pose a serious threat to national security, businesses, and individuals’ rights to privacy, because they could easily intercept information, Tsai said.

ISR service is the system supporting a country’s various types of critical infrastructure like healthcare, finance and public transportation, which are considered in need of strict protection in many other countries, Tsai said.

Yang Hsiao-hsien (楊孝先), who leads an alliance of neitzens advocating freedom of speech on the Internet, expressed his worries that the opening-up policy would turn the Internet in Taiwan into an area with no freedom of expression.

There might be self-censorship by Taiwanese enterprises in which Chinese have invested money, for the sake of “harmony,” he said.

The forum was one of a series of events organized by the Public Economic Research Center of National Taiwan University to explain the impact of the service trade agreement to the public.

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