Eslite bookstore comes under fire over allegations of customer data breach

CNA file photo

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) The Ministry of Digital Affairs (MODA) said on 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 a person claiming to be a pollster asking questions about a book titled “If China Attacks,” which she recently had bought from Eslite’s online bookstore.

The matter came to light earlier in the day when Yang spoke at a press conference in Taipei and said that shortly after she bought the book in February, she received a phone call from someone claiming to be a Taiwanese pollster conducting an Eslite survey on “sensitive reading material.”

But the caller’s accent and use of terminology suggested otherwise, said Yang, deputy director of the Here I Stand Project, a Taiwanese non-profit organization that seeks to promote the country’s youth internationally.

Moreover, the caller kept stressing 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 Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP).

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

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

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 fraud, Wu said.

She said the protocols put in place by Taiwan’s cabinet to combat fraud and scams should also include investigating the source of data leaks to better protect the rights of Taiwan’s citizens.

After the press conference, the Ministry of Digital Affairs 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 enable the ministry to determine whether Eslite’s data security complies with Taiwan’s regulations, MODA said, citing the Personal Information Protection Law.

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 fraud.

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


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