Sunday, August 29, 2010

In Taiwan, The Age of Information Accountability and Liability Has Begun

The Age of Information Accountability and Liability Dawns Worldwide as Well

webposted: September 1, 2010

TAIPEI -- When Taiwan's Revised Personal Data Protection Act takes effect in early 2011, one could say that the age of information liability will have truly begun
in this country. According to Benjamin Chiang, writing in
the Chinese-language CommonWealth Magazine, the "strict new stipulations will put virtually everyone in Taiwan at risk of unknowingly breaching the Personal Data Protection Act, with possible fines of up to NT$200 million."

Before the revisions, the Personal Data Protection Act applied only to eight specific industries, Chiang noted in his report, but the revised act applies now to all industries and every individual in Taiwan. In particular, cyberbullying and cyberstalking (and cyberflaming) will no longer go unpunished, and such things as osting an article or photo of someone else on the Internet or in a personal blog will be considered, under the law, to be ''leaking'' personal data, if the person concerned has not given his or her approval.

In adddition, such things as "human flesh searches" -- a growing phenomenon worldwide in which groups collectively investigate, expose and sometimes harass individuals perceived of wrongdoing, and which entail the unauthorized posting of private information on the Internet "in the name of justice," will be seen under the new law to be a violation of the Personal Data Protection Act. Those who engage in "human flesh search" campaigns to expose others over the Internet (and in so doing reveal the contact information of people on the Internet, without their permission) will be subject to legal action.

For example, once the act is enforced, it won't be a good idea to post articles or photos of other people anywhere on the Internet without their express permission. According to Chiang,
"if the content of articles or photos posted on the Internet pertains to other persons, they must be notified and asked for prior approval."

Given the provisions of the act, lawyers representing people who try to fight cyberbullying and cyberstalking will have have more artillery in their arsenals to fight such
cyber-crimes. Even flaming other people in forums and blogs will be subject to legal action, if those flamed wish to press charges, according to sources in the legal field.

All this is a good thing. For too long, the Internet has gone unchecked and unmoderated, allowing anyone to post anything about anyone else online, with fear of repercussions or legal action. Now, the laws against cyberbullying will have teeth and cyberstalkers and forum flamers will not be able to operate freely anymore.

In this new climate of trying to protect people (especially teenagers and elementary school children) from Internet harm and malicious rumors and photos, a document has begin to circulate worldwide in English to call attention to the perils of cyberbullying and cyberstalking. Called the "Digirata," and with no specific authorship credited, the prose poem states that "as far as possible [Netizens should] be on good terms with all persons online and never ....flame others or engage
in any kind of cyberbullying or cyberstalking."

The "Digirata" further counsels Netizens to "avoid angry and aggressive flamers and out of control cyberbullies,
for they are vexations to the spirit of the internet."

To read the entire text of the Digirata, go here.

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