What you need to know
The Taipei City Government denies reports of a massive leak of school children's personal information.
A new news website in Taiwan is accusing Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) of leaking the personal information of more than 350,000 elementary and middle school students to Google, claims that the Taipei City Government categorically denies.
Mirror Media (鏡傳媒), officially launched earlier this month, published an article today alleging that the city's Department of Education signed a contract with Google in June for its Google Apps for Education (GAFE) service, providing the 350,000 students with email accounts and cloud drives with unlimited storage space, as well as various learning apps and platforms.
Mirror Media reports that the contract was signed due to lack of storage space on “Taipei CooC-Cloud,” an online database launched by the Taipei City Government that contains learning materials and e-books for school students.
The contract allows Google to “re-sell the personal information of the students or use it to benefit from advertisement, ” the website says, adding that the city government did not notify parents of the contract and now the information that has been uploaded cannot be deleted.
It also quotes "a high-ranking official” from Kaohsiung City's Department of Education as saying, “There is the risk of leaking personal information when collaborating with Google. Even though they have approached us many times saying they are willing to provide us with free cloud storage, we never considered it.”
Parents interviewed by Mirror Media expressed anger at the Taipei City Government, suggesting the process may have been illegal because parents did not give their consent.
Taipei CooC-Cloud officially launched in August, nearly two months after the contract between the Taipei City Government and Google was signed.
Chen Shu-ping (陳淑屏) of the Taipei City Government's Department of Information Technology told The News Lens International by telephone today that the signing of the contract “had nothing to do with” Taipei CooC-Cloud lacking storage space.
“A lot of schools all over Taiwan use GAFE, and the contract was signed for schools in Taipei City that haven’t been able to apply for the service yet,” Chen said.
She said computer classes are offered from the third grade in elementary schools, and many teachers start by teaching the students how to use email, which is a reason many schools have been using GAFE.
Chen added that the government “only provided [Google with] the names, user name and password” of the students, and only user names cannot be changed.
“There is really no such thing as leaking of personal information,” she said.
Many Taiwanese netizens say the Mirror Media report “lacks verification” and is “spreading rumors.”
TechOrange, another Taiwanese news website, said in an article today that those who are criticizing the government should first “learn more about the real dangers of information security and whether or not Google has been re-selling information."
First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole