Taiwan’s digital minister says personal data protection agency needed for digital ID

Measure to introduce eID has been met with fierce opposition from academics, experts

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Suggested versions for Taiwan's new ID card (Ministry of the Interior images)

Suggested versions for Taiwan's new ID card (Ministry of the Interior images)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s digital minister supports the idea of establishing a dedicated agency for personal data protection before the electronic identification cards (eID) are rolled out next year.

The digital ID was originally scheduled to be introduced in October, but had to be postponed due to logistics difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The new timetable for the launch is the first half of 2021, depending on how the virus has been controlled.

The eID, which incorporates National Health Insurance Card and driver’s license data, has been a contentious issue for the information security risks it involves. Following a petition campaign that saw nearly a hundred experts oppose hastily phasing out old IDs in favor of an electronic version, academics and industry experts again called for action to address potential data breaches, constitutional rights violations, and other issues at a seminar organized by the Information Law Center of the Academia Sinica on Wednesday (July 29).

Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳) threw her weight behind setting up a unit to deal with issues pertaining to the Personal Data Protection Act, which will serve as an independent agency for eID incident investigations. This will also be more in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union, CNA quoted her as saying.

While the government has ensured that the protection of personal data is enshrined in law and that proper steps will be taken to protect people's information, Tang believes a task force that includes members from outside the public arena will be more effective.

Chiou Wen-Song (邱文聰), director of the Information Law Center, said Taiwan should be more careful about the new eID measure, citing examples of Germany, Estonia, and Japan, which have their own dedicated regulations for digital ID. The Ministry of the Interior's Department of Household Registration has insisted there is no need to enact more legislation for the new card given the existence of the House Registration Act, Electronic Signatures Act, Cyber Security Management Act, and Personal Data Protection Act, wrote UDN.