In 2020, Singapore took several measures to combat COVID-19, two of them digital: the TraceTogether contact tracking app and a mandatory check-in system. At the time, the government of the country guaranteed that the data collected would only be used to respond to the pandemic, but the promise was not fulfilled.
In the month in which the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Portugal, the government of Singapore launched the app to combat the pandemic. The application uses Bluetooth to do the tracking and whenever it registers a close contact between two users, it allows anonymous and encrypted iDS to be exchanged that the Ministry of Health can decrypt if a person tests positive for COVID-19.
For those who cannot or do not want to use a smartphone app, the government also offers Bluetooth devices to monitor the spread of the new coronavirus. The gadget has a QR code for identification and an autonomy of nine months, so it does not need to be recharged. Bluetooth is used to communicate with other devices of the kind, as well as with smartphones that have the app installed.
Two months later, in May, the Government of Singapore took a controversial step by mandating a digital check-in system, called SafeEntry, which collects personal data in places like schools and offices. The goal is to facilitate contact tracking efforts.
The list of locations was chosen based on the greater likelihood that “citizens will be closer for longer periods or in closed spaces”. On the other hand, the order also extended to areas with “high human traffic”. In this way, citizens are obliged to provide information about their name, mobile phone number and identification number.
Data from solutions to combat COVID-19 were used by the police
The Singapore Government’s pledge to use the data only to control COVID-19 has not, however, been fulfilled. Earlier this month the country’s internal administration ministry confirmed that the police can effectively access the information for investigations. A day later, Minister Vivian Balakrishnan even announced that data from the government’s digital solutions were used in an investigation of a murder.
It didn’t take long for criticisms of the Government to arise, with the body to announcehowever, it will introduce new legislation to limit the use of contact tracking data by law enforcement authorities in areas such as terrorism, murder and kidnapping.