Electronic IDs pose security problems

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As Taiwan is engulfed in worries about Chinese infiltration, news reports have revealed that power inverters made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co are used in the solar panels on the top of the Legislative Yuan’s Zhenjiang House (鎮江會館) on Zhenjiang Street in Taipei.

However, what is even more worrying is that Taiwan’s new national electronic identification card (eID) has been subcontracted to the French security firm and eID maker Idemia, which has not only cooperated with the Chinese Public Security Bureau to manufacture eIDs in China, but also makes the new identification cards being issued in Hong Kong.

There might be more Chinese influence in Idemia than in the “red supply chain.”

After a sample of Hong Kong’s new identification card was approved, a Hong Kong technician wrote an article about the strengths and weaknesses of its anti-counterfeiting features.

The technician said that the card maker, Morpho (now Idemia), said on its Web site that it works with China’s Public Security Bureau and provides biometric systems for the Chinese government, immigration agencies and other public offices, and that it is an important player for providers of biometric solutions for immigration control.

According to Idemia’s Web site, Morpho was previously a part of Safran Group, which has a long history of doing business with China. In 2017, Morpho was acquired and renamed Idemia.

Safran’s Web site shows that as early as 2015, Morpho was supplying biometrics, law enforcement equipment and border control systems to the Public Security Bureau. Before that, the company had provided facial recognition systems for Chinese public security authorities in Shanghai, Tianjin and Wenzhou, and the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Guangzhou.

Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) once said: “China is the only country in the world that would like to invade Taiwan. What can we do if we let China handle the new eID manufacturing? The information of all Taiwan’s citizens is here.”

“The printing of ID cards and chip manufacturing must be handled with the strictest caution from a national security perspective,” he also said.

Despite this, the government is covertly subcontracting the production of eIDs to the very manufacturer that makes Hong Kong’s cards and collaborates with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Public Security Bureau to make biometric control systems and Chinese eIDs.

The government is investigating whether the e-commerce Web site Taobao Taiwan shares its platform with China’s Taobao, but it does not question whether the overseas manufacturer of blank eIDs for Taiwan has any association with the Hong Kong government, the CCP or the Public Security Bureau, or is sharing platforms, systems, programs, technology, information and personnel with them.

At this moment, the risk to the personal information of every Taiwanese is far greater than the threat posed by the red supply chain. The new eID card samples are already available in Taiwan — will the government really just sit back and wait for something to happen?

Chen Yi-nan is convener of the Northern Taiwan Society’s Technology and Environmental Protection Group.

Translated by Lin Lee-kai

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