The Hsinchu City Government yesterday announced that it would likely delay a trial of the new national electronic identification card (eID) after privacy groups and city councilors said that city residents should not made into government “lab rats.”
“Our No. 1 priority is our residents and the security of their data. If the central government cannot reassure us about the information security concerns, this government will be inclined to delay the pilot program,” the statement said.
“The city government has heard the voices of many citizens and experts who expressed concerns and made suggestions about the eID program, as we continue to communicate with the central government,” it said.
Photo: Hung Mei-hsiu, Taipei Times
The city’s Department of Civil Affairs had told the public that it should not worry about the security of the cards because a password is required to view personal data, such as the cardholder’s address and family members’ names, stored on the chip.
The cards would not contain medical data and they would be more difficult to counterfeit than conventional cards, it said.
However, at a news conference yesterday, advocacy groups and opposition councilors urged Hsinchu residents to opt out of the eID trial, which the Ministry of the Interior had planned to begin next month.
The Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Amnesty International Taiwan, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the New Power Party (NPP) and the Taiwan Statebuilding Party were among those that participated.
Hsinchu City Councilor Liao Tzu-chi (廖子齊) of the NPP said that the ministry lacked the legal authority to issue or test the cards, as the legislature did not authorize them through a new law or amendment.
More care should also have been exercised in making the technology more secure, Liao said.
There is no such thing as risk-free information technology and the card should not feature a design that places all of an individual’s information on a single chip, she added.
“As it stands, the Taiwanese government is drawing a huge target over the [eID card] database and inviting attacks by hackers and state-level cyberbrigades,” she said.
The ministry did not clearly inform the public about the eID project or furnish them with a proper overview of the Hsinchu pilot, said Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Shih Yi-hsiang (施逸翔), who is one of 60 plaintiffs suing the government over the cards.
“Given the ministry’s lack of respect for citizens’ autonomy and its lack of legal authority — and especially the information security risks — Hsinchu residents should refuse to be lab rats in the eID trial,” he said.
The Taiwan Statebuilding Party’s Hsinchu chapter said that it would organize street protests.
There are no legally defined penalties for leaking eID data, it added.
“The decision to run the pilot in Hsinchu shows a complete disregard for the data security of the city’s residents,” it said.
In a news release written on behalf of the card’s opponents, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights said that the ministry initially chose Hsinchu, Penghu County and several districts in New Taipei City for the pilot, but that all of the jurisdictions except Hsinchu declined.
Later yesterday, the ministry said that the eID program is a key policy of the Executive Yuan and that Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has promised the Legislative Yuan that the program would only go forward after cybersecurity concerns have been fully resolved.
Additional reporting by Huang Hsin-po
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