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III. Privacy issues

National ID

The government still retains the traditional paper national ID card. However, the Household Registration Law requires citizens over age 14 to submit all 10 fingerprints upon receipt of their renewed national ID cards which the Cabinet will use to establish a national fingerprint bank. The government also introduced the Citizen Digital Certificate system, a voluntary electronic card that allows citizens to engage in online activities such as tax filing, labor insurance issues, seniority and personal retirement program inquiry, personal travel restriction inquiry, health insurance personal data and fine inquiry, electronic motor vehicle & driver information needs, digital household registration copies, ID loss report and household registration office e-net services. As of July 2007, 1.2 million cards have been issued.1

Another heavily criticized scheme is a national health insurance integrated circuit (IC) card system using the national ID number, also compulsory, that stores sensitive personal information (such as ICD-9 code for illness classification) on the patient's health insurance IC card.2 Introduced in 2001,3 IC cards were issued to 99 percent of citizens by 2004.4 The card was initially intended to store only enough information to make patient registration easier, but it now includes "a record of every major illness, injury, organ donation and prescription." Results of diagnostic tests are also stored on the IC card.5 Use of the national health insurance IC card at all hospitals and clinics became compulsory in 2004.6

Medical privacy

Under the HIV Prevention Law, the government can demand that foreigners who have been in Taiwan for more than three months take an HIV test and may deport them if they test positive.7 In 2004, Article 71 of the Medical Treatment Law was amended to guarantee patients the right to obtain copies of their medical records upon request. Though hospitals can be fined up to TWD 10,000 (~USD 294) for refusal to comply with the law, many continue to require physician approval before providing patients with copies of their records.8


The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) established a radio frequency identification (RFID) development program in 2003, and hopes to capitalize on potential markets for the technology.9 The MOEA also funded a program that developed several RFID sensors to monitor vital statistics of patients and track employee movement in hospitals.10 Taiwan also plans to invest more than TWD 32 billion to transform itself into the global leader in creating "life-related technologies," including RFID, nanotechnology, smart robots and smart living spaces.11 Separately the government pledged between TWD 400 million and TWD 700 million per year between 2006 and 2009 to develop the infrastructure for becoming the global leader in producing RFID technology.12

Under the updated Sexual Violation Prevention Law, "high risk" sex offenders are required to wear electronic tags after their release from jail. In an attempt to reduce sex crimes, serial rapists and attempted escapees are required to wear RFID bracelets so that police can monitor movements and verify curfew compliance.13

Civil society advocacy work

In addition to producing an annual human rights report, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) has campaigned against the many ID card proposals in Taiwan.14 In July 2002, TAHR created and coordinated the Personal Information Protection Alliance, which consisted of more than 50 civil societies and non-governmental organizations.15 The alliance was formed to protest several government schemes that require citizens to submit sensitive personal data.16 Although the alliance was unable to prevent the introduction of the health IC card, it has brought significant attention to the issue using creative protest methods.17