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Vice minister allays concerns over eTag information leak

The China Post news staff--Those who leak information about motorists using the eTag electronic toll collection system will be subject to criminal prosecution, a top transport official told lawmakers yesterday.

Vice Minister Chen Chien-yu of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said eTag users' personal data is protected by law, and any employee of Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co. (FETC) found leaking the information will face heavier criminal charges than usual.

Chen was addressing an opposition lawmaker's concerns that the electronic toll collection system keeps a detailed record of all highway users in its database, forming a log of the whereabouts and travel habits of individual motorists that could be misused.

Huang Wen-ling, convener of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, cited reports as claiming that the government has plans to open Taiwan's telecommunications market to investors from China.

Far EasTone, the parent company of the toll collection firm, is said to be looking to form a partnership with China Mobile from across the Taiwan Strait, Huang said, adding that it could compromise national security.

FETC will have access to all eTag users' data, including that of government officials and the presidential motorcade, the lawmaker said.

But Wang Chun-yi, an official with the National Security Bureau, said the government has no plans to allow China investors to obtain telecom business licenses.

The vice transport minister noted that the government contract for the eTag business requires FETC to strictly observe the personal data protection law.

The government-commissioned FETC is equivalent to a government body, and its employees are seen as equivalents of civil servants who are given heavier punishments if they violate the information protection law.

Tseng Ta-jen, head of the highway bureau, said all FETC employees must sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding them from disclosing clients' information. Any use of clients' information will be logged, which can be traced if there is violation.

Apart from the company's own security system, third-party independent auditors will check and evaluate FETC's operations every year, he said.

Taiwan plans to fully implement the electronic tolling system on all highways next year, with all other current toll collection methods to be discontinued.

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