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Privacy law posts challenge to charity groups: report

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Two charity organizations in Taoyuan complained of the difficulty of giving away money because the local government refused to help them find those in need, a local newspaper reported yesterday.

Taoyuan district offices rejected the charity groups' requests for personal information on poor families due to a possible violation of the Personal Information Protection Act, the report said.

Wufugong Temple, one of the charity groups, said they wanted to give away red envelopes to the poor for Chinese New Year. In light of this they asked the district offices to provide a list of low-income households, but the offices turned them down, saying this was against the law.

Yen Fu-lai (顏福來), the director of Shousanyan Temple, which also hands out red envelopes during the holiday season, said there were cases of people driving luxury cars to claim the money. The temple wanted to get the list from the district offices to make sure the people who actually need financial aid get the money, he said.

Shousanyan Temple said that at least a thousand households could claim the red envelope every year, however, many district offices refused to provide the list this year, thus it was hard for them to contact the low-income households about the money.

Lin Cheng-fung (林正峰), a convener of the event, said they understand that rich people are afraid about disclosing their personal information and being exploited, but noted that the charities are trying to help the poor, asking why the district office is scared of breaching the act.

Taoyuan City Hall said all people need to be protected by the Act, including low-income residents. The city hall cited the example of a method whereby charities are not provided personal details but charity money is distributed. They referred to a resident who did not want to disclose their personal information. In this case, without disclosing personal information, the city hall helped the charity group send a notice to the resident. The resident then went to the city hall to claim the money.

The Social Welfare Bureau of Taoyuan County Government said not every low-income resident would like to disclose their personal information, thus when the county government verifies low-income household application, they will ask if the residents are willing to disclose information to charity groups. The county government will not reveal the information if the residents do not want to.

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