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Experts question gov't for use of Gmail

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- After the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) at the end of last year started to use Gmail as its internal mailing system, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) reportedly is considering to use Gmail as well. This has raised concerns with local technology experts, who say that it might have national security issues, according to local reports.

The Chinese-language Liberty Times on Tuesday published an article and quoted several local experts, saying that if all governmental ministries and agencies use the Gmail calendar app and its mailing system, there is a chance of leaking confidential information.

Fang Tsou Chao-tsong (方鄒昭聰), an associate professor at the Graduate Institute of Information Management of National Taipei University, was quoted as saying that there will be problems if the government chooses to use Gmail instead of developing its own internal mailing system.

Fang Tsou explained that as Google analyzes information retrieved from customers and many of the company's employees are Chinese, it is inappropriate to use Gmail in governmental ministries.

Lin Tsung-nan (林宗男), professor of National Taiwan University Department of Electrical Engineering, said that the government in 2012 adopted the suggestion of former Minister without Portfolio Simon Chang (張善政), now minister of MOST, to spend NT$7 billion to establish cloud computing servers, equipment and facilities for all ministries.

Lin argued that he does not understand why the EPA chose to outsource the internal mailing system to a company instead of using the government's own cloud computing services.

Officials' Responses

EPA official Chu Yu-chi (朱雨其) said Gmail is only used for EPA officials to communicate non-confidential information with each other, stressing that his administration has another secure mailing system for confidential information.

Given that Chang previously served as the director of Google's hardware operation in Asia in 2012, many local media outlets question if Chang has attempted to promote Google to the government.

Chang denied such speculation, saying that after the MOST was established, his ministry integrated mailing systems to save funds and manpower. He said Gmail and Microsoft Office 365 are all options.

As for the local experts' concerns over national security issues, Chang said the MOST will comment after Google proposes regulations for information security management.

The National Development Council (NDC) said it did not receive calls or information from the MOST regarding the internal mailing system, noting that every government ministry will decide on its own internal mailing system.

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