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June 24, 2017

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Taipei's household registration ID booths using mainland site

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Identification photo booths found in household registration offices around Taipei made news yesterday, revealing that the software programs installed redirected any photo takers to a mainland China-based website.

Amid the ongoing protest against the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement with mainland China, it has been reported that after having a picture taken in an identification photograph booth during a previous visit to the Shilin District Household Registration Office (臺北市士林區戶政事務所), a booth user, upon accessing the control screen to print his photo, was asked to sign up and log in to a China-based website written in simplified Chinese. Reportedly shocked, the user commented on his experience via Facebook, and has been quoted expressing his anger over having his information leaked to the communist nation.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) held a press conference yesterday, criticizing the Taipei City Government's Department of Civil Affairs (臺北市政府民政局) after being alerted to the incident in a civilian complaint. "Before Taiwan signs the yet-to-be-passed Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement," Kao had been reported as saying, "numerous Chinese software have already infiltrated our household registration systems." Kao went on the raise concerns over the possibility of China already acquiring uncountable personal data of local civilians, compromising the safety and security of the nation.

Department of Civil Affairs Outsourcing Claims

When pushed to comment on the incident by Kao, Department of Civil Affairs Household Registration Division chief Hung Chin-Ta (洪進達) answered by saying that the responsibility of the mistake should be on the company that the booths are outsourced from, and that upon realizing the problem late last month, the program had already been removed as requested by the department.

The functions of the booths should have been only to photograph people and then provide the necessary pictures. However, as of January, the outsourced company voluntarily included the new program for free, which enabled the machines to store pictures into cloud storage so that booth users may later download soft copies of their photos for free.

Following his answers, Hung was cornered by Kao who demanded answers as to whether personal information had been compromised as a result. Hung reportedly averted the question, saying that the question could only be answered by the company, only to be rebuked by the DPP councilor, who warned Hung to stop shirking the responsibility of the government to other parties. The company in question also stated earlier yesterday that more details must be investigated before an appropriate comment could be given.

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