Singapore—Ever since the Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said in Parliament on Monday (Jan 4) that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) is empowered under the CPC to obtain data for criminal investigations from TraceTogether, many in Singapore have been abuzz with security and privacy concerns.
What has complicated the issue is that Mr Tan’s statement seemingly contradicts what was said by Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balaksrishnan last June, “TraceTogether app, TraceTogether running on a device, and the data generated, is purely for contact-tracing. Period.”
Dr Balaksrishnan has admitted that he had not thought of the CPC when he had made his remarks last June, as well as clarified that the “TT app and token were not designed to allow any government agency to track the user,” and that, “We do not take the trust of Singaporeans lightly,” but the issue is still being discussed in online spaces.
Late on Wednesday night (Jan 6), Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, waded into the fray, sharing a post that showed that Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, had also said something similar to what Dr Balakrishnan said last June.
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The post Mr Lee shared was from activist Kirsten Han. Ms Han had put up a photo of a transcript from Parliament from June 4, 2020, entitled “Safeguarding of Personal Data Collected by Contact-tracing Apps.”
The transcript reads, “Mr Murali Pillai asked the Prime Minister what steps has the Government taken to ensure that personal data of persons collated through apps such as TraceTogether for the purposes of contact tracing to contain the spread of COVID-19 will be protected and not used for any other purpose.”
Answering on behalf of PM Lee, the Senior Minister said, “The close contacts data gathered by TraceTogether will be stored only on the user’s phone in the first instance, and accessed by MOH only if the individual tests positive for COVID-19. It will only be used for contact tracing.”
Mr Teo reiterated this in Parliament on Oct 5 of last year when he said that the data on TraceTogether would be kept for up to 25 days and shared with the Ministry of Health “for contact tracing in the unfortunate (and hopefully unlikely) circumstance that the user tests positive for COVID-19.”
Ms Han wrote on her post “there were also reassurances made in Parliament last year about how data collected via TraceTogether would ‘only be used for contact tracing.’
Did Teo Chee Hean, the former Minister for Home Affairs and current Coordinating Minister for National Security, also forget about the Criminal Procedure Code?”