Law in the Internet Society

Ruling the Country by Technology: Convenience? or Surveillance?

--Revised by WanTingHuang - 04 Jan 2021

Introduction: Anonymity and Our Life

When trying to advocate “anonymity,” people sometimes say “I am not a criminal, why should I hide?” Well, anonymity is a right that a person can decide whether to reveal himself/herself or not, and anonymity should exist everywhere as long as a person wants it. In other words, no one should be forced to reveal, we deserve anonymity and we need some space to breathe.

However, governments increasingly trying to take advantage of technology to help them govern their countries and control their citizens. Here, I will illustrate three major technology policies in Taiwan, point out problems and try to figure out some notions to improve our digital life. e.

Govern the Country by Technology in Taiwan

Recently, Taiwan government promotes several policies of technology from different perspectives to govern the country, such as eID, digital signature and technology investigation, trying to learn from Estonia and to transform into an advanced country governed by technology.

A. eID

A new policy of using New eID in 2021 is promulgated in Taiwan and it will replace the traditional ID card, which introduced in 1946, is simply a paperboard with basic bio and a barcode. With pride and in defense, Taiwan government boasts eID likelihood with Estonia Digital Identity Card. However, a significant difference between those two is grossly hidden from the public – information security and transparency.

The eID in Taiwan and in Estonia is functionally similar. They both are personal identification with digital signature and could combine with healthy insurance and tax files. Moreover, Taiwan eID contains photo, signature, date and location of birth, marriage status and spouse’s name and household information. If a governmental staff got your ID number, he/she can get all yours and your families’ information through the system. Since so much information contained in eID that it raises lots of concerns about information security and privacy. For example, Estonia used "X-Road" database, a cross-platform and non-centralized database to store people's information in each department independently. A government or company can get people's information with that person's authority. Also, Estonia has established an open-source monitoring system that allows the public to know what government agency, at what time, and what information has been checked. However, this monitoring system does not exist in Taiwan as well as the Taiwan government fail to disclose how the information will be used and stored in eID. Transparency here seems does not exist.

Not until Interpretation No. 603 of the Constitutional Court was released in 2005 did the Taiwanese government stop collecting fingerprints as renewing ID cards for the people. It’s clear that people have the right to determine what and how their personal information to be used. But now, the new eID policy seems to be ignoring all the concerns without any justifiable explanation.

B. Digital Signature

There are three essential characteristics of the digital signature: integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation. While concerning the safety of Digital Signature, two things come to our mind first: verification and encryption. The “Electronic Signatures Act (ESA)” in Taiwan was promulgated in 2001, and although the government alleges that the legislation follows the ETSI TR 102 038 Technical Report of EU, the troublesome truth is the certification agencies in Taiwan are private companies. It shouldn’t be some companies with such power to access people’s information without disclosing how they dealing with them.

The new eID also contains digital signature. There are two major concerns: one is the digital signature might be mixed up with identity certification; the other is that the ESA hasn’t been modified for 20 years and only regulates one encryption method: Public Key Infrastructure. Basing eID on the outdated and narrowly legislated ESA is troublesome because it creates tremendous legal uncertainty around the many other encryption methods which is widely used yet unregulated. In addition, it must be clear how to separate the identity certification and digital signature while using eID.

C. Technology Investigation

The third technology policy Taiwanese government promotes is “technology investigation.” The Ministry of Justice asserts that the only object of the investigation is “criminal;” however, people are afraid that the Technology Investigation would become another Martial Law, which terminated in Taiwan in 1994 and many people still suffer from its shadow.

“Technology Investigation Act” on one hand regulates the due process of law enforcement’s usage of technology in investigation; on the other hand, it allows them to scout directly through people’s devices or other digital information. For example, law enforcement can intrude into people's smartphones and implant Trojans. They can monitor and obtain conversation texts, audios and photos, as well as control your devices remotely and secretly.

Therefore, we should not allow them to inspect people’s communication, not to mention setting up a back door on people’s devices. That would be totally a violation of privacy and autonomy.

Improving Information security by Education

While Estonia government talks about the e-Estonia by digital identity, digital signature and information encryption, ironically, Taiwan government talks about eID, digital signature and technology investigation.

Establishing digital ID cards and popularizing digital signatures is not the most important thing to become a digital country; the most important thing is to teach information encryption. Surveillance keeps people silent and deprive our dignity. Nonetheless, sadly Taiwan only carries out the first two methods, and forgets about data encryption intentionally or unintentionally.

People need to understand they have “choices,” they need to know anonymity and are their right. Privacy incursions should not hide behind the name of convenience and public interest. The more we adore the machine and the digital system, the better we should learn how to protect our information and autonomy.

Before launching a new policy that educates children on programing in elementary schools, it’s better to teach children as well as adults how to protect their information and read freely without surveillance. But somehow, the Taiwanese government just forgets to teach people about those stuff for convenience. Well, whose convenience? At whose expense?

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r3 - 04 Jan 2021 - 14:35:35 - WanTingHuang
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