Singapore has announced that its police will be able to use the data obtained by its coronavirus contact tracing technology for criminal investigations, a decision likely to heighten privacy concerns across the system.
The technology, implemented as a phone app and a physical device, is being used by nearly 80% of the population of 5.7 million, authorities said, after announcing that its use would be mandatory in places like shopping malls.
The TraceTogether scheme, one of the most widely used in any country, has raised privacy concerns, but authorities have said that data is encrypted, stored locally, and intervened by authorities only if people test positive for Covid-19.
“The Singapore police force is empowered … to obtain any data, including data from TraceTogether, for criminal investigations,” Interior Minister of State Desmond Tan said on Monday in response to a question in parliament.
The privacy statement on the TraceTogether website reads: “The data will only be used for Covid-19 contact tracing.”
Privacy concerns have been raised about these apps in several places, including Israel and South Korea.
“Concerns have centered on data security issues associated with the collection, use and storage of the data,” law firm Norton Rose Fulbright said of the Singapore scheme in a review of global data tracking technology. Contacts last month.
When asked by an opposition MP about TraceTogether’s privacy statement, Tan said: “We do not exclude the use of TraceTogether data in circumstances where the safety of citizens is or has been affected, and this also applies to all other data “.
Dissent is rare in Singapore, which has been governed by the same party since its independence in 1965, has strict laws, widespread surveillance and restrictions on public gatherings. Serious crimes are also rare.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has previously said that privacy concerns about technology must be weighed against the need to curb the spread of the virus and keep the economy open.
Singapore has reported only a handful of local Covid-19 cases in recent months, and its extensive disease surveillance and contact tracing efforts have garnered international praise, including from the World Health Organization.
Australia based its own contact tracing app, Covidsafe, on the source code of the TraceTogether app.
The New South Wales Department of Health said last year that a major problem with the app, which would also have privacy implications if used by law enforcement, was the false identification of close Contacts.
“There were neighbors in the same apartment buildings or nearby houses, there were office workers who worked on different floors in the case, there were people who were in different restaurants with the case, [or] that it was still on the same street or maybe a few doors down or even on the street of the case” saidsaid investigator JMinkowskiwski.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism