Amnesty International Taiwan yesterday called for the establishment of a dedicated oversight body for the government’s planned electronic identification card (eID) program, citing potential privacy and security concerns.
The NT$3.3 billion (US$118.45 million at the current exchange rate) eID program was initiated by the Ministry of the Interior to replace national IDs with cards containing electronic chips that store personal information.
The government initially planned to introduce the IDs in October last year, but the launch was postponed due to the local COVID-19 outbreak, and criticism of the project for lacking public consultation and transparency in the tendering process.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Amnesty International Taiwan secretary-general Chiu Ee-ling (邱伊翎) told a news conference in Taipei that academics and human rights groups were concerned over the possible risks of using an eID, including the potential for data leaks and government abuse of personal information.
“In Taiwan, we still have not established comprehensive mechanisms and a legal framework for cybersecurity. Under such conditions, forcing the eID scheme on the public could result in serious problems such as the invasion of privacy and the leaking of data on individuals,” she said.
“It also makes it very easy for government agencies to track all aspects of people’s daily lives and enables tight authoritarian control on society,” Chiu added.
Citing a study on the eID scheme that drew on other countries’ experiences with such programs, she said that Germany passed laws to restrict the scope of such IDs, including where and in what capacity the data contained in them could be used.
Chiu said that the ministry often cited the use of eIDs in Estonia as an example when promoting the scheme.
However, Estonia suspended the eIDs of 800,000 people due to a security threat in 2018, she said. There were news reports last month regarding hackers that allegedly breached the system and stole nearly 300,000 ID photographs from Estonia’s database.
Along with calling for new cybersecurity laws and an independent regulatory body to oversee the program, Chiu and others demanded that the government allow people the choice to continue using traditional IDs.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Fan Yun (范雲) added that the use of eIDs also presents national security concerns due to the constant threat of attack from hackers in China.
New Power Party Legislator Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) said the scheme must consider privacy concerns and potential human rights issues.
“The current laws and regulatory bodies are insufficient for security protection and safety for use of eIDs,” he said.
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