This post is part of a series featuring interviews with some of the fascinating individuals who joined our community for the 2014-2015 year. Conducted by our 2014 summer interns (affectionately known as "Berkterns"), these snapshots aim to showcase the diverse backgrounds, interests, and accomplishments of our dynamic 2014-2015 community.
Berkman fellow and Taiwanese public prosecutor interviewed in summer 2014 by Berktern Varoun Gulati
How did you originally become interested in security, surveillance, and cryptology?
I have been a public prosecutor for 12 years and have handled several cases involving cybercrime. At first, by accessing IP addresses, we were able to locate criminals. Nowadays, most information on the Internet is encrypted, making it difficult to locate cyber criminals. Technology is advancing too quickly for us to make necessary adjustments in how we conduct investigations. Furthermore, security, surveillance, and cryptology have a major impact on the cyber world. They protect privacy but conceal those who violate the law. Taiwan's Communication Act doesn't give enough support to investigation matters. As a prosecutor, I need greater access to the cyber world to handle investigations efficiently and effectively.
What do you see as the most concerning cyber threats to governments and private organizations?
The rapid development of networking technologies and financial services has greatly affected our society. The Internet not only provides us access to information, but also allows us to easily contact and communicate with others. Nevertheless, the Internet constantly exposes and threatens our daily lives and personal privacy. Cyber data protection policies have been put under severe stress. The new Internet-related crimes are composed of phishing, pharming, APT-email (advanced persistent threat), malignant Trojan horse programs, and search engines, all of which are menaces to the government and private organizations. These Internet-related crimes are international, which presents difficulties in tracing due to lack of interoperability, porous digital boundaries, and a lack of clear geographical restrictions.
When do you think government surveillance programs intrude upon citizens’ personal privacy and when do you see surveillance programs as beneficial for national security?
Using new technology, authorities cannot only collect personal data, but also permanently save and extensively spread it. Communication surveillance has been a useful tool in Taiwan's criminal investigation for years. However, the nation's use of communication surveillance for national defense or public order might lead to conflict between human rights advocates and those in charge of national security. If they were to legalize surveillance, the government should emphasize some rules such as requiring warrants and implementing principles of transparency.
How would you rate Taiwanese media support of the Communication Security and Surveillance Act of Taiwan? Do you think that they have a significant role in shaping the public opinion of the Act?
As Taiwan’s hold on privacy protection is consolidated with the rapid development of communication tools, many challenges are created regarding communication security and surveillance. The amendments to the Communication Security and Surveillance Act passed in January of 2014 seriously hurt law enforcement authorities’ investigations. However, the Taiwanese media has made a series of contradictory statements about the Surveillance Act. Largely, the Taiwanese population advocates for protection of personal privacy. But on the other hand, they demand that the government installs surveillance cameras on every street block, allowing us to constantly monitor citizens’ locations, a major piece of private lives. However, the Taiwanese media is adamant that the government should never intrude on citizens’ privacy. Nonetheless, the media, especially paparazzi, stealthily takes pictures of people even without the subject’s consent. Finally, the media has been playing an important role surrounding the amendments to the Communication Security and Surveillance Act, but it does not wisely consider the consequences of implementing tougher rules governing wiretap usage.
In your work in Taiwan, do you see any particular legislative aspects that could be improved surrounding security, surveillance, and/or cryptology?
During 2011, district courts in Taiwan authorized 15,556 applicants to wiretap and intercept oral and/or electronic communications. Violations regarding illicit drugs use represented 61.8% of the electronic investigations; corruption was a distant second at 12.3%, while fraud racketeering was determined to be less than 5%. Computer crimes, however, have become increasingly sophisticated due to technological advances. Electronic surveillance is critical for criminal investigation and has been utilized for several years. Although it helped solve many controversies between the violation of human rights and criminal investigation, The Communication Security and Surveillance Act of Taiwan is still inadequate in some circumstances, especially in its description of the law. Rapid technological advances have kept our legislative innovation at bay, resulting in difficulties conducting criminal investigation.
How do you hope to use your work at Berkman to help your work back in Taiwan and how do you think the Berkman community can help you?
I will research practical international situations and regulation trends regarding surveillance and personal data protection. I will also explore situations of tracking and wiretapping technology and learn more about the judicial review and legal statutes of tracking and technology in the United States. I hope to compare these policies with the currently active ones in Taiwan. I will try to solve the issue of tracking and monitoring, which will have a significant impact on our human rights, just as the Constitution explicitly enumerates several forms of freedom, such as privacy of correspondence, freedom of assembly, and freedom of business. I will exercise and practice what I learn in the US to propose some observations and suggestions in Taiwan towards those issues and problems mentioned above. The Berkman Center is well known for its excellence in cyberspace and intellectual property rights. I am sure that with my extensive experience in conducting criminal cases and my knowledge of cyber crime, I will be a worthy research fellow of yours.