While the Covid-19 pandemic is still just as virulent around the world, the Singapore government decides to make a little more use of the data it collects thanks to its contact tracing application. Some cybersecurity experts feared this could come true … Singapore has just announced that TraceTogether’s data could be used by the police in a future criminal investigation.
TraceTogether is becoming a mass surveillance tool
This is clearly the beginning of a mass surveillance policy. This is exactly what Le Temps mentioned a few months ago. This Swiss media hit the headlines on May 6, 2020: “In Singapore, app tracking is degenerating into mass surveillance”. Indeed, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong decided on April 21, 2020, despite not appealing, TraceTogether decided to go further, insisting, “We must take full advantage of technology to trace the path of people infected with the virus . ” A leading health official in the country had even called for TraceTogether to become mandatory.
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As a result, the TraceTogether application has no fewer than 4.2 million users to date, up from just under 1 million in April. The government has successfully placed its bet. The city-state decides today to go one step further. The data collected will no longer only be used to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, but will also be used by the local police as part of criminal investigations. Singapore has confirmed that its law enforcement agencies can access the data collected by the contact tracing application.
The city-state goes far beyond its original commitment
Like the French application TousAntiCovid, TraceTogether uses Bluetooth to discover other users who have also downloaded the application within 2 meters. This helps in identifying people who have had contact. It is easy to see how such data could be used in a criminal investigation that the police are about to conduct. However, prior to launching the app, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had insisted that “the data is never consulted unless the user tests positive”.
First of all, the minister had also stated: “Only a very limited team of doctors will have access to the data.” He thought this was necessary to identify the activity of a positive contact… The speech has changed slightly today. Home Secretary Desmond Tan believes that under the Criminal Procedure Code, Singapore Police can obtain any data, including data from TraceTogether.
When a journalist asks the Home Secretary for his opinion on the data confidentiality obligation, his response is: “The security of our citizens is more important, and therefore we are not excluding the use of data from TraceTogether if that security is compromised “The Singapore police have played a key role since the pandemic began. It actually helps the authorities to identify the sick. On the other hand, this time the city-state goes way beyond its original commitment and violates the privacy of its fellow citizens.