Taiwan ID firm dismisses accusation it worked with contractors for China spy grid

TECO Electric & Machinery Co. dismisses report linking it to China as 'baseless' and 'untrue'

New eID design (MOI photo)

New eID design (MOI photo)

2020/9/4 16:30 Update Central Engraving and Printing Plant (the government agency that contracts out card making) has issued a statement dismissing as "baseless" a report suggesting illegal subcontracting by TECO Electric & Machinery Co. Ltd. It emphasized Chinese-made equipment and materials are not permitted and personal data will be protected to the highest standard.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Nearly 24 million Taiwanese citizens might be at risk of exposure to personal data breaches as a result of the government's ambitions in the field of digital identification, as foreign subcontractors for the new electronic identity (eID) cards are said to have previously assisted China with building ID systems and could export huge amounts of Taiwanese biometric data to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under the Hong Kong Security Law.

TECO Electric & Machinery Co. Ltd. (東元電機), the winner of Taiwan’s eID contract, is currently under investigation for bidding with a falsified ISO 14298 certificate. The company was previously involved in a number of government projects, including the making of 20 million National Health Insurance cards in 2001, iPass in 2005, and the Alien Resident Certificate (ARC), according to the report.

People familiar with the matter told MirrorMedia that after winning the NT$3.29 billion (US$ 112 million) eID contract, TECO contracted out card production to several firms, including France's Idemia and the U.S.' Datacard, a cost of NT$2.8 billion in total. The two companies, however, are also said to be working with the Chinese government on different projects.

Idemia, formerly known as Morpho, is the global leader in providing biometric surveillance and security systems and is involved in the making of state-issued drivers licenses in the U.S. With a sales office in Hong Kong offering digital identity and smart transaction solutions, the company is also assisting China with surveillance, ID systems, and biometric payments.

The other subcontractor — Minneapolis-based card printer manufacturer Datacard — was said to be able to access 23 million personal data entries from Taiwan’s household registration system as a result of having served TECO. An insider revealed that Datacard's nine-person team in charge of the business also assisted the Hong Kong authorities in creating smart identity cards and that six of them took part in a police project called the "Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macau Residents," better known as the "Home Return Permit."

The insider also claimed that eight of the team members are Chinese nationals and expressed concerns the personal data of Taiwanese might be leaked to the CCP upon request, in accordance with the controversial Hong Kong national security law.

The Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced in July a postponement in the introduction of eID cards from October until the first half of 2021, citing the pandemic.

Updated : 2020-12-01 02:19 GMT+08:00