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Contractor seeks NT$526 million in compensation for Taiwan’s halted digital ID plan

Electronic ID scheme put on hold in 2021 due to privacy and safety concerns

Digital ID card. (Ministry of the Interior photo) 

Digital ID card. (Ministry of the Interior photo) 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taxpayers in Taiwan may have to foot the bill for the digital ID plan, at an estimated NT$1 billion (US$32.6 million), after it fell flat due to privacy and cybersecurity concerns.

The government embarked on an initiative to introduce electronic identity cards in 2018 at a cost of NT$4.89 billion in ten years. The issuance of the cards was originally set for 2020 but postponed amid COVID-19 and was eventually suspended in 2021 because of worries about ever more sophisticated cyberattacks.

An unspecified contractor, however, has spent NT$390 million on equipment and other expenditures and is now seeking NT$526 million in compensation from the government, according to Up Media. Talks are ongoing and taxpayers could end up having to pay NT$1 billion, including the damages being sought and the cost of maintenance.

Seeking to bring the amount of compensation down to NT$190 million, the Central Engraving and Printing Plant, which is responsible for the negotiations, said the eID scheme is halted but not scrapped as funds are put in place for the maintenance of relevant equipment. A fifth negotiation is scheduled for Friday (May 12), per UDN.

Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) of the opposition KMT has demanded accountability and an explanation. Former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and the likely presidential candidate for the Taiwan People’s Party also lambasted the government for what he said was its “incompetence” over its handling of the matter.

The digital card policy has been surrounded by controversies since its conception, from the design of the card to the scope of the personal information to be incorporated, regulatory loopholes, and potential security breaches.