Sat, May 29, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Pro-privacyprotestersbreak eggs

IMPERSONAL SECURITY An alliance of NGOs asks legislators to consider the risk of fraudulent use of new personal data, citing current database abuses

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Protesting the possible use of fingerprint submissions in national identification card renewals next year, the Personal Information Protection Alliance yesterday smashed a basket of eggs on the steps of the Legislative Yuan.

The alliance, composed of 56 nongovernmental organizations, said the eggs represented the possible crisis that could be caused by a centralized information database holding sensitive personal data such as fingerprints. The group called on the government to stop the digitalization of personal information, calling it a dangerous infringement of privacy rights.

"If they get our fingerprints, then what's next? Our DNA information?" said Wu Hao-jen (吳豪人) the president of the Taiwan Association of Human Rights and an assistant law professor at Fu Jen Catholic University. "That's also an unmistakable mark of one's identity. If this continues, then our government will become like the Matrix."

The alliance used the demonstration to express its alarm that an amendment abolishing a fingerprint stipulation in ID card renewals might not pass, especially since a recent Ministry of the Interior (MOI) announcement that it will enact the card renewal next year. Without specifying their sources, the alliance said that inside information has indicated that cross-party caucuses in the Legislative Yuan have agreed to leave the law as it stands, without any amendments.

The current version of the Household Registration Law (戶籍法) states that all citizens over 14 must submit prints of all 10 fingers upon receipt of their ID cards. The law has long been protested by human rights groups organized under the alliance. As a result, an amendment removing the condition was introduced and has officially been under discussion in the Legislative Yuan since 2002.

In recent weeks, Interior Vice Minister Lee Chin-yung (李進勇), has said that the ministry will use the fingerprint submissions from card renewals to create a national fingerprint database. The database has been sought by various police and ministry representatives for easier criminal investigations and more certain personal identification.

The alliance expressed worry that the creation of such a database would open the door to fraud and illegal trading of personal information.

Referring to recent outrage over fraud networks' activities, Wu said, "If these criminal organizations can buy our credit card and identification numbers the way things are, how can we trust the government to ensure the protection of personal information such as fingerprints?"

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