Wed, Jul 02, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Ministry looks to protect privacy

PLUGGING LOOPHOLES The Ministry of Justice says it wants to change privacy laws to protect people from unethical businesses that buy and sell information

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Justice said yesterday officials are working on tightening the Law for the Protection of Computer-managed Personal Information (電腦處理個人資料保護法).

The move is in response KMT Legislator Hsu Shao-ping's (徐少萍) complaints about privacy invasion.

"First of all, we would like to take out the word `computer-managed' from the name so it would cover all kinds of personal information which should be private and protected," said Liu Tso-kuo (劉佐國), a senior clerk of the ministry's Department of Legal Affairs.

According to Liu, current rules protect only personal information which is managed, processed, stored or distributed by computers.

Under current legislation, victims can file a privacy-invasion suit against a person or company only if they find evidence that the person or company leaked classified information, such as their name, annual income, phone number or address, to a third party without their authorization.

"However, it is almost impossible for a victim to find out who sold his personal information to a third party, let alone to provide evidence to prove their allegation when they report it to the police," Liu added.

Under current regulations, Liu said, workers in eight fields are allowed to collect personal information for business purposes. These eight professions are: private detective agencies, banks, hospitals, schools, telecom and Internet service providers, insurance companies, the media and stock-exchange companies.

"We are planning to cancel these group's prerogatives as well," Liu said.

Liu made the remarks at a press conference held by Hsu yesterday.

At the press conference, Hsu used a recent fraud case cracked by the Taipei City Police's Ta-an Precinct on May 21.

Hsu complained about privacy invasion and urged law enforcement officials to do something about the problem.

In the case, two suspects told police that they purchased their list of victims -- which contained names, ages, telephone numbers and addresses -- from a company called Business and Cultural Association of Republic of China.

Police have arrested the association's president and secretary-general on May 28 and transferred them to the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office for interrogation.

According to the investigation completed by Hsu's legislative office, the association was legally registered as a social group at the Ministry of the Interior on July 22, 1995, even though the association is doing business that is entirely unrelated to social affairs.

According to a police investigation, employees of the association purchased the personal information, which was supposed to be classified, from those who have access to it and then sold the information to whoever needs it.

Lee Wen-chang (李文章), chief officer of the Ta-an Precinct's Criminal Investigation Section, said that personnel working in the eight fields allowed to collect such information must have been the source of the list.

But, police said, their hands are tied if the suspects do not divulge their sources.

"We can only remind the public to be more careful whenever they are asked to register or write down their personal information," Lee said.

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