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Taiwanese pols raise security concerns with biometric gear from China, Thailand

Taiwanese pols raise security concerns with biometric gear from China, Thailand

The acquisition of biometric attendance machines from China and Thailand by some municipal offices in Taiwan’s capital Taipei has sparked major concerns about data privacy and security with the use of the devices.

The concerns have prompted Taipei City government officials to assure that they’ll make sure such devices, which include face and fingerprint biometrics capabilities, have security guarantees and that they comply with regulatory provisions, Taipei Times reports.

Addressing a press conference recently, two Taipei City councilors, Lin Yan-feng and Yen Juo-fang, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), slammed the use of the machines. Yan-feng said their deployment is a contravention of the government’s cybersecurity rules, and that the machines coming from Thailand were on a government blacklist.

Juo-fang noted that deploying such biometric devices without the necessary precaution by municipal officials puts the personal data of resident held in their systems at great risk.

The outlet notes that eight municipal agencies procured biometric attendance machines made in China, while 11 others got their supply from Thailand.

With the ever-persistent political tensions between China and Taiwan, there are fears that the former could use its technology to monitor Taiwanese in their own territory and possibly share their data with external networks.

The concerned councilors say a review must be conducted to ensure that Chinese-made biometric technologies, including those assembled in a different country, are not deployed in any municipal office or anywhere else in Taiwan. They also insist that officials must henceforth be sure of the origin of all the systems deployed.

The directive for Taipei municipal offices to deploy biometric attendance machines comes after the city government noticed laxity and attendance fraud at work. At least 40 municipal offices and agencies have procured the machines, per Taipei Times.

In order to properly address the concerns raised by the city councilors, a Taipei Department for Information Technology official says they’ll step up their efforts to ensure that all procurements of biometric equipment meet regulatory rules.

The official adds that among other measures, agencies would be expected to submit their procurement plans to the Department for scrutiny and approval.

In the past, concerns about the risks of using biometric products from China such as CCTV cameras and facial recognition systems have been registered in Australia and other countries.

Many Chinese feel okay with use of surveillance cameras, study shows

In a related development, research conducted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a private research organization, has shown that many Chinese citizens are comfortable with the use of surveillance systems such as CCTV cameras, but less favorable to others like those that require the collection of DNA. More than three-quarters of those surveyed say the number of CCTV cameras around them should stay the same or increase.

This is part of the results obtained from the year-long study which sought to, among other things, have a better understanding of state surveillance in China and how it’s communicated by the Chinese party-state.

The study also finds that while citizens’ views on surveillance and trust in the government vary markedly, the narrative pushed by the government to justify its surveillance tendencies appears to be “partly effective.”

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