TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Ministry of Digital Affairs (MODA) has fined retailers Shopee and Eslite NT$200,000 (US$6500) and NT$100,000 respectively for failing to protect customers’ personal data, the first time such fines have been handed down since the ministry was established.
The ministry stressed that the fines had only been issued after both companies ignored repeated requests to improve data protection. Carousell, a smartphone and web-based consumer to consumer and business to consumer marketplace for buying and selling new and secondhand goods, is also under investigation, the ministry said on Tuesday (May 30), and will also be fined if its data protection practices do not improve.
Taiwan’s Central Investigation Bureau released a list of online retail platforms on which customers were most likely to fall victim to fraud in January, and Shopee, Eslite, and Carousell were all on the list.
The ministry said that Shopee had outsourced its personal information protection audits to its parent company, Shopee Singapore, who last carried out an audit four years ago per CNA. Eslite was found to have failed to implement sufficient measures to protect consumer data, and it had failed to adequately supervise the outsourcing of data protection.
A notable example of Eslite’s failure made headlines earlier this month when a pro-Taiwan independence advocate purchased the book “If China Invades” from the retailer. Yang Hsin-tzu (楊欣慈) purchased the book with the Chinese name “What to do when the CCP calls” (阿共打來怎麼辦), and shortly after received a phone call from a party claiming to be Eslite, but who Yang believed to be a representative of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) itself, per Storm Media.
Yang said the caller spoke with an accent not native to Taiwan, and told her “unification is bound to happen, voting for the Democratic Progressive Party means military reunification, and voting for the Kuomintang means peaceful reunification.” Whether or not the call came from the CCP, pro-Kuomintang actors, or some other source has not been established.
According to analytics firm Similarweb, Shopee is the number one online shopping platform in Taiwan and the 8th most visited website in Taiwan. In contrast, Eslite and Carousell did not make it to the top 50 most visited websites overall or even the top five most visited e-commerce websites.