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Eslite bookstore comes under fire amid accusations of customer's data leak

05/14/2023 08:41 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) The Ministry of Digital Affairs (MODA) said Sunday that it has summoned representatives of the company that runs Eslite bookstore to explain the circumstances surrounding the alleged leak of a customer's private data to an apparent Chinese propagandist.

In a statement, the ministry said it had contacted Taiwan's Eslite Spectrum Corp. after learning that the customer, Cynthia Yang (楊欣慈), had received a phone call from someone claiming to be a pollster, who was asking questions about a book titled "If China Attacks," which she had purchased recently from Eslite's online bookstore.

The matter came to light earlier in day when Yang spoke at a press conference in Taipei, saying that soon after she bought the book in February, she received a phone call from someone who claimed to be a Taiwanese pollster conducting an Eslite survey on the "sensitive reading material."

However, the caller's accent and use of terminology suggested otherwise, said Yang, deputy executive secretary of the Here I Stand Project, a Taiwanese non-profit organization that seeks to promote the nation's youth internationally.

Furthermore, the caller kept emphasizing how "sensitive" the contents of the book were and kept insisting that "a military unification (between China and Taiwan) was inevitable," Yang said at the press conference held by her organization and the Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP).

In fact, the book discusses the current relations between the two sides and debunks the claims that China would easily prevail in the event of a cross-Taiwan Strait military conflict, Yang said, adding that the caller kept pressing her to give her opinions about the book.

Yang said all of that led her to conclude that the call had come from a well-organized Chinese group seeking to influence Taiwanese and sway them to side with the ideals of the ruling Communist Party of China.

Also speaking at the press conference, TSP Taipei chapter head Wu Hsin-tai (吳欣岱) said the phone call was an indication that Yang's data had been leaked from Eslite bookstore.

In 2021 and 2022, Eslite was listed as a high-risk platform that exposed its users to scams, Wu said.

She said that the protocols introduced by Taiwan's Cabinet to combat fraud and scams should also include investigating the source of data leaks, in order to better protect the rights of Taiwan citizens.

After the press conference, the digital affairs ministry issued a statement, saying it had summoned representatives of Eslite Spectrum Corp., which runs the popular bookstore chain in Taiwan, to give an explanation Monday about the incident.

The company's representatives will be required to provide evidence that will allow the ministry to determine whether Eslite's data security adheres to Taiwan's regulations, MODA said, citing the Personal Data Protection Act.

When contacted by CNA, Eslite said in an email response that it will continue to strengthen its data security and regularly remind its customers about the prevalence of scams.

(By Joy Tseng, Chen Chun-hua, Chiu Tsu-yin and James Lo)


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