Plan for Digital ID Card Suspended Amid Controversy

Plan for Digital ID Card Suspended Amid Controversy
Photo Credit: Ministry of the Interior

What you need to know

A plan to issue digital identification cards in July was suspended until a special law has been established to govern the matter.

By Sean Pan

The Taiwanese government yesterday suspended its plan to issue digital identification cards until a special law has been established to govern the matter.

The government had planned to launch the new version of identification cards in July, but the Executive Yuan decided to hit the brakes after a briefing from Ministry of the Interior (MOI) officials on a report discussing the controversial matter.

The Executive Yuan said a poll in 2017 showed that more than 70% of the populace approved of the plan to replace the current printed version with an electronic version.

However, the plan has met with opposition from academia and non-governmental organizations, said Li Meng-yen, Secretary-General of the Executive Yuan. There are calls to establish a legal basis and concerns about information security.

The Executive Yuan had planned to roll out the new identification cards in the northern city of Hsinchu before the government issued the cards across the country. But the Hsinchu city government halted the pilot study because of information security concerns.

One of the key reasons why the government had to suspend the ID plan is the opposition from legislators of the governing Democratic Progressive Party, the Liberty Times reports.

After the announcement yesterday, Li told the press that Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang said issuing the new identification cards is an important policy basis for smart governance, but he agreed to postpone the plan after seeing the evolution of cyber threats, especially those from China. The policy will go ahead when a special law is in place.

The law, according to iThome, will cover digital ID application, issuance, and activation, as well as data processing, collection, and how the government uses it. It will also regulate the collection and use of digital footprints.

Hsu Kuo-yung, MOI minister, said there is no timeline for when a law will be enacted. The ministry will refer to similar regulations in other countries as it drafts the law, he added.

Hsu also noted that a government agency will be appointed to be in charge of matters concerning the digital identification cards.

Secretary-General Li said the government has only delayed the plan, so the budget spent on it is not wasted. But he pointed out that an extra cost can be incurred as a result of the postponement.

Taiwanese are not strangers to chip cards. The National Health Insurance cards, which are embedded with a chip, were rolled out in 2004, and there have not been widespread complaints about the risks they might pose.

Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s “digital minister,” said people set high expectations for the electronic identification cards because there are strict rules on who can access the data in the health insurance cards, United Daily News reports.

Civil servants, with permission from the National Health Insurance Administration, an agency under the Ministry of Health and Welfare, can read and use the data on the cards, while only medical workers and pharmacists are allowed to write data into the cards. Every read of the data on the cards can be traced.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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