Human rights advocates yesterday lashed out at the National Police Agency (NPA) over its plan to collect personal data from people deemed a threat to society in an attempt to prevent attacks from occurring, condemning the move as unconstitutional and a breach of privacy.
Following the attack on Taipei’s MRT system last month that left four people dead and 24 injured, media outlets reported that the agency has launched a plan to monitor “high-risk” people to prevent similar crimes, and would find such people by collecting and analyzing personal data, including medical records of people with mental or psychological disorders.
Responding to the reports, the agency denied that it plans to create a database of “high-risk” people, but said it would collect personal information for crime prevention.
“Medical records cannot be used for crime prevention. What the agency plans to do is a big joke and would cause serious damage to a democracy,” Wellington Koo (顧立雄), an attorney and a long-time human rights advocate, told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.
“I cannot believe the government would collect my medical records, put labels on it, declare that I might commit a crime and start monitoring me. If the government does so, I would say that our democracy is gone,” he said.
Koo said that amid controversy a few years ago over whether fingerprints should be stored on national ID cards to help in criminal investigations and crime prevention, the Council of Grand Justices ruled that it was unconstitutional, saying biological information cannot be used for non-medical purposes, “and this should apply to the current issue too.”
“If my medical records are to be given to the police for crime-prevention purposes, I would rather not have been born in this country,” Koo said.
Wu Ching-chin (吳景欽), an associate professor at Aletheia University’s law department, said the agency’s move is unconstitutional and without legal basis.
“The NPA should understand that, while people can act in any way not prohibited by the law, the government is restricted to doing only that which is allowed by law,” Wu said. “When I say law, I mean laws officially passed by the legislature, not some interior administrative regulations released by the NPA itself.”
Laws that authorize the police to collect personal information, such as the Criminal Procedures Act (刑事訴訟法) and the Police Power Exercise Act (警察職權行使法), stipulate that the police can only collect personal data from specific people or in specific cases following a strict procedure, Wu said.
“Collecting information from non-specific individuals is unlawful and unconstitutional,” Wu said.
Independent Taipei mayoral candidate and writer Neil Peng (馮光遠) said it was a pity NPA Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) has not commented on an issue that could severely undermine human rights in Taiwan.
“I urge government officials to tell us what they think of the proposal, and medical providers should decline to provide information if asked by police agencies,” Peng said.