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Bill for Taiwan’s halted digital ID program could cost NT$1B

Bill for Taiwan’s halted digital ID program could cost NT$1B
 

The government of Taiwan is facing a hefty lawsuit from an unnamed vendor that claims it lost money when the national digital ID program was suspended over privacy and security concerns.

According to Taiwan News, the unspecified contractor is asking for NT$526 million (approximately US$17 million) in compensation, for costs that include equipment purchases, venue fees, maintenance and air conditioning. The country’s Interior Ministry says it intends to retool the eID program and the Central Engraving and Printing Plant, which handles contracting, is handling the case. But the lawsuit could end up costing taxpayers as much as NT$1 billion ($33 million).

Taiwan announced its eID program in 2018, projecting it to cost NT$4.89 billion ($160 million) over 10 years. Cards were due in 2020, following a trial period in Hsinchu City. The launch was later pushed to July 2021. The plan reportedly was well received by the public, with a majority of citizens in favor of replacing printed cards with digital IDs. But Covid put the program on pause during which a rash of concerns surfaced about the potential for data breaches and vulnerability to cyberattacks.

Plan dogged by privacy and security fears

Among the questions that have plagued the eID program focus on its design, the amount and type of information that should be displayed or disclosed and who would manage collected data. Thornier still are concerns about national data security and foreign surveillance.

Central Engraving previously got into trouble when the winner of its digital ID contract, Teco Electric & Machinery Co. Ltd., was alleged to have falsified its ISO 14298 certificate and illegally subcontracted card production to foreign firms that had connections to China. That could expose the biometric data of millions of Taiwanese to a hostile government. The agency denied the claims, and Teco released a statement asserting the legality of its bid and subcontracting processes.

Program suspended indefinitely, negotiations continue

A timeline for the suspended electronic ID program has yet to be released, but privacy watchdogs are pushing for new legislation that requires stronger data protection.

Meanwhile, government officials will hold their latest round of negotiations on the pending lawsuit this week, following four previous sessions that failed to yield an agreement.

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